This Nashville SC team doesn’t give up goals from leading positions. It took 12 matches for an opponent to score when trailing Nashville SC (Atlanta United, the bookend goal to complete a 2-2 draw in Nissan Stadium after the Five Stripes had given up a 1-0 lead). Tonight, the Boys in Gold gave up two of them in a row, turning what looked like a potential cruise to victory into a disappointing draw against Orlando City SC.
Nashville got off the mark early, with Hany Mukhtar’s 11th-minute penalty saved by Pedro Gallese… but not well enough to prevent the German from calmly tapping home his own rebound. The somewhat-soft penalty (granted when Orlando’s Jhegson clipped the heel of Aníbal Godoy with the NSC midfielder moving away from goal) foreshadowed a returning of the favor later in the match.
First, though, Nashville would double its lead shortly after the halftime break. Randall Leal collected a Dax McCarty pass near midfield, and while he had runners to either side, the Costa Rican cranked away from outside the box, wrong-footing Gallese by keeping the shot near-post, and giving NSC what looked like an insurmountable lead.
The return fixture of the soft penalty home-and-home made its appearance, though. Seemingly innocuous hand-fighting between Nashville defender Jack Maher and Orlando striker Daryl Dike saw each wrap a hand around the other as a longball approached the Nashville box. Dike went down, and (unlike with the penalty Godoy earned) VAR wasn’t even consulted before the fifth overall pick in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft cashed in on the penalty he’d earned.
The letdown looked like it would be brief, with Nashville showing some assertiveness deep into second-half stoppage time, but the Lions were able to make it complete in the third added minute. With Nashville trying to kill clock by taking the ball to the corner, Orlando’s Mauricio Pereyra cleared the ball out of bounds, where it struck substitute striker Aké Loba’s foot. The assistant referee deemed that the contact occurred before the ball had completely crossed the line, starting an Orlando spell of possession that resulted in a corner – against the protestations of Nashville SC players who insisted the ball last struck Tesho Akindele.
The ensuing corner was a nightmare for NSC, with the ball sailing to the far edge of the six-yard box before it struck the back of the head of NSC midfielder Tah Brian Anunga, who didn’t see it coming in a tangle with Orlando winger Benji Michel.
With the draw, Nashville doesn’t lose ground in the Eastern Conference – the NYCFC team directly behind in the standings took a big loss in Chicago, Philadelphia Union earned just a draw against New York Red Bulls, and Orlando City merely split the points in Nashville – but a sense of missed opportunity will certainly haunt NSC. A win immediately before heading on the road to face NYCFC in a six-pointer… well, may have made Sunday’s 11 a.m. CDT brunch kickoff feel a lot less like a game that is crucial for both teams to jockey against one another.
The larger goals are not only possible, but in range: Nashville sits six points clear of third-place DC, and seven points out from a four-way logjam in fourth place. A win in Harrison, N.J. Sunday afternoon would certainly help wipe some bad feelings that are left over this evening.
- 11′ NSH GOAL – 10 Hany Mukhtar (right-footed, rebound after own penalty was saved. Penalty earned by 20 Aníbal Godoy)
- 32′ ORL Yellow card – 10 Mauricio Pereyra (foul)
- 34′ NSH Yellow card – 20 Aníbal Godoy (foul)
- 45+4′ Half time
- 59′ NSH GOAL – 8 Randall Leal (right-footed, outside the box, after dribble), assisted by 6 Dax McCarty
- 62′ ORL Yellow card – 15 Rodrigo Schlegel (foul)
- 66′ ORL Substitutions:
- On 17 Luis Nani, off 22 Alexander Alvarado
- On 19 Benji Michel, off 14 Silvester van der Water
- 70′ NSH Substitutions:
- On 27 Tah Brian Anunga, off 20 Aníbal Godoy
- On 19 Alex Muyl, off 8 Randall Leal
- 76′ ORL GOAL – 18 Daryl Dike (right-footed penalty, PK earned by Dike)
- 81′ ORL Yellow card – 25 Antônio Carlos (foul)
- 81′ NSH Substitution – On 99 Jhonder Cádiz, off 17 CJ Sapong
- 82′ NSH Yellow card – 12 Alistair Johnston (foul)
- 83′ ORL Substitution – On 13 Tesho Akindele, off 8 Jhegson Mendez
- 86′ NSH Substitution – On 72 Aké Loba, off 10 Hany Mukhtar
- 90’+2 ORL Substitutions:
- On 24 Kyle Smith, off 2 Ruan
- On 3 Emmanuel Más, off 4 Joao Moutinho
- 90’+3 ORL GOAL – NSH 27 Tah Brian Anunga (headed own-goal from set piece)
- 90’+6 Full time