With league MVP candidate Hany Mukhtar unavailable, and Nashville in the middle of a finishing stretch of six games in just over three weeks, NSC head coach Gary Smith took a risk: rotate on the road against defending Supporter’s Shield champion Philadelphia Union, and hope to hold for a draw on the road. With remaining matches against FC Cincinnati and New York Red Bulls – in each of which Nashville will be favored – sandwiching a trip to Orlando City, getting a result without running the well dry would have been ideal.
Bad luck struck in multiple ways – a fluke penalty conceded by defender Taylor Washington, an injury to starting striker Daniel Ríos – and the Boys in Gold couldn’t claw back to earn a point, falling 1-0 on the shore of the Delaware River. In the end, Nashville not only didn’t steal a point, but also had to play first-XI players such as Walker Zimmerman (a halftime replacement for Jack Maher), CJ Sapong (who replaced the injured Ríos in the 31st minute), and Randall Leal (who started and played into the 77th minute) longer than was the intention.
The game changed in the 18th, when former Philly player Taylor Washington misjudged the bounce of a hopeful long ball into the Nashville box. Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya missed his attempt to flick the free kick on, catching Washington by surprise, and the ball struck him in the forearm. Union striker Kacper Przybyłko converted the ensuing penalty kick, and the scoring for the day was done.
Of course, the teams couldn’t know at the time that we’d see only one goal in the match, but NSC certainly didn’t threaten much more, even when Sapong – in the top 20 scorers in MLS so far this season – was forced onto the pitch by a Ríos injury that fortunately seems to not be serious. Zimmerman entered at the half to provide a set-piece presence and a solid body at the back. In spite of it all, Nashville managed just eight total shots and one on target. And a grand total of 0.3 expected goals.
Certainly, the absence of Mukhtar, an unlucky penalty, and some forced deviations from the gameplan affected what Nashville wanted to do. And a tight loss on the road at the defending Supporters Shield winners is hardly something to be ashamed of. But with just three goals in the past six games – and zero wins in that stretch – the Boys in Gold will have to quickly rebound to find their form before the playoffs.
Fortunately, perhaps the most-capable team of providing that rebound beckons at the midweek. FC Cincinnati, a squad on the verge of an unprecedented three-year run of bottom-table finishes, will host Nashville SC at TQL Stadium Wednesday evening. There’s no better team against which to break a goal-scoring drought, given that FCC has allowed 64 goals on the season, including five across two previous games against Nashville.
First kick is shortly after 6:30 p.m. CDT (5:30 local), and a win for NSC should be enough to lock up a playoff spot – after a poor weekend of results in not only Philly, but around the East, prevented that from happening Saturday.
- 18′ PHI GOAL – 23 Kacper Przybyłko (right-footed penalty, conceded by 23 Taylor Washington – handball in box)
- 23′ NSH Yellow card – 72 Ake Loba (foul)
- 27′ PHI Yellow card – 23 Kacper Przybyłko (foul)
- 31′ NSH Substitution – On 17 CJ Sapong, off 14 Daniel Ríos (injury)
- 45’+4 Half time
- HT Nashville substitution: On 25 Walker Zimmerman, off 5 Jack Maher
- 53′ NSH Yellow card – 20 Aníbal Godoy (foul)
- 55′ PHI Yellow card – 5 Jakob Glesnes (foul)
- 61′ PHI Substitution – On 30 Paxten Aaronson, off 6 Daniel Gazdag
- 62′ PHI yellow card – 10 Jamiro Monteiro (foul)
- 62′ NSH Substitution – On 7 Abu Danladi, off 72 Ake Loba
- 77′ NSH Substitutions –
- On 18 Dylan Nealis, off 23 Taylor Washington
- On 99 Jhonder Cádiz, off 8 Randall Leal
- 90’+2 NSH Yellow card – 18 Dylan Nealis (foul)
- 90’+ 4 PHI Substitution – On 4 Stuart Findlay, off 10 Jamiro Monteiro
- 90’+5 Full time