CJ Sapong photo courtesy Nashville SC/Major League Soccer
It turns out, Walker Zimmerman was not the cure to all Nashville’s ills in set-piece defense. Toronto FC earned a winner via Omar Gonzalez’s redirection of a Yeferson Soteldo free kick in the 79th minute, leaving the Boys in Gold on the wrong end of a 2-1 decision north of the border.
Toronto’s Jacob Shaffelburg got the scoring started in the 18th minute, perfectly timing a misplayed offside trap from Nashville SC to get in alone on keeper Joe Willis. After rounding the veteran netminder, he slid the ball into an unprotected goal – with Zimmerman’s recovery run not quite quick enough to make a heroic block. It was Toronto native Alistair Johnston, however, who seemed to be at fault: with Nashville holding a high line against TFC, he was a couple yards behind Zimmerman and left CB Dave Romney, giving Shaffelburg the space – and the running start – to get onto a beautiful ball over the top from right back Auro Jr.
Nashville would equalize in the 74th minute through one of the league’s top American goal-scorers, CJ Sapong. A throughball from Hany Mukhtar to substitute Randall Leal found space in-behind along the right side of the Nashville attack, and Leal slid a square pass to a wide-open Sapong at the top of the six-yard box to finish.
Nashville’s sigh of relief wouldn’t last long, though. A set-piece opportunity from 30 yards out saw Soteldo fire to the back post. The service barely cleared the head of a leaping Zimmerman, and Gonzalez was home to knock it past Willis.
NSC’s problems with Toronto FC continue. While NSC knocked last year’s Supporters Shield runners-up out of the playoffs, life has been difficult even against a TFC side that has taken major steps back (and is on its second new coach since that glorious night in Hartford, Connecticut). Nashville found a late winner at home, but has drawn and now lost to the Reds at BMO Field – accounting for four of Toronto’s meager 18 points on the season.
There’s not much time for NSC to lick its wounds before returning to the pitch: the Boys in Gold travel to Fort Lauderdale – another place that turned out to be nightmarish on the first visit of the year, with Inter Miami CF earning its first home win of the year against Nashville back in August – Wednesday evening. The air of impenetrability in that the team had projected in the third game of a season against the same team (6-0-0 entering Saturday’s loss) may no longer apply, but after a disappointing 0-1-1 start to the season series, certainly NSC will enter with revenge on the mind in South Florida.
- 18′ TOR GOAL – 24 Jacob Shaffelburg (right-footed, after rounding keeper), assisted by 96 Auro Jr. (long lofted throughball)
- 32′ NSH Yellow card – 2 Dan Lovitz (foul)
- 39′ TOR Yellow card – 4 Michael Bradley (dissent)
- 45’+3 Half time
- 55′ NSH Substitutions:
- On 19 Alex Muyl, off 23 Taylor Washington
- On 8 Randall Leal, off 124 Daniel Ríos
- 64′ TOR substitution – On 30 Yeferson Soteldo, off 99 Achara
- 71′ NSH Substitution – On 6 Dax McCarty, off 27 Tah Brian Anunga
- 74′ NSH GOAL – 17 CJ Sapong (right foot), assisted by 8 Randall Leal (square pass on breakaway after throughball from 10 Hany Mukthar)
- 79′ TOR GOAL – 44 Omar Gonzalez (leaping, right shin), assisted by 30 Yeferson Soteldo (right-footed free kick)
- 84′ TOR Substitutions:
- On 23 Chris Mavinga, off 24 Jacob Shaffelburg
- On 13 Patrick Mullins, off 6 Dom Dwyer
- 84′ NSH Substitutions:
- On 99 Jhonder Cádiz, off 17 CJ Sapong
- On 72 Aké Loba, off 12 Alistair Johnston
- 90’+4 Full time