CINCINNATI, OHIO – When a team in contention for a top-two finish in the Eastern Conference visits a squad on the verge of completing the worst three-year run in league history, even the typical wildness of Major League Soccer shouldn’t result in the upset.
Unfortunately for Nashville SC, the Boys in Gold saw much, much more than the typical MLS wildness. Fortunately for the Boys in Gold, they ultimately had more of that craziness go in their favor than against.
The first phase of the game played out evenly until FCC benefitted from a rare run-of-play mishap. A 6th-minute cross from Haris Medunjanin was bound for Brandon Vazquez on the doorstep of the Nashville goal, but it never reached the striker (who was briefly a member of Nashville’s team via Expansion Draft, before GM Mike Jacobs immediately flipped him to FCC), with centerback Dave Romney poking the ball away… but into his own net. While a few dozen visiting fans may have expected their team to strike back in short order, it was actually Cincinnati doubling the lead barely over 10 minutes later. A foul by Romney gave FC Cincinnati’s Brenner the chance to score his second penalty against Nashville SC this season, and the 21-year old did not miss that chance (please stay tuned for further updates to this status).
Nashville pulled one back in the 28th minute, when a Hany Mukhtar free kick found the head of Walker Zimmerman, and the US International headed past Cincinnati keeper Kenneth Vermeer.
It would take two more Cincinnati chances to extend the lead. A second penalty kick was granted, but this time Brenner’s attempted Panenka shot had no chance of beating Joe Willis. The veteran keeper remained rooted to his spot, and made the easy save. Nonetheless, the hosts would re-double the lead shortly thereafter. Ephemeral Nashville SC draft pick Brandon Vazquez collected an under-hit switch from Brian Anunga, and managed to get into a one-v-one situation with Willis. He fired from outside the box, and it was 3-1.
From that point, though, it was all Nashville SC. Randall Leal scored the first of his two goals in first-half stoppage time, firing from outside the box on a long rebound. In the 71st minute, a free kick from Hany Mukhtar found the head of Walker Zimmerman, who nodded forward. Star striker CJ Sapong was there to bundle it home to the far post.
Leal would be involved in the next two goals, receiving a pass from Hany Mukhtar at the end of a scramble in Cincinnnati’s defensive zone, and hitting again from outside the area. Leal would then send a throughball to striker Ake Loba, who would beat Vermeer 1v1 to get his first goal in Gold. Sapong added his second in stoppage time, taking a square pass from Loba and beating Vermeer solo himself.
With the win and a friendly scoreboard around the East, Nashville SC not only clinches playoff position, but is in solid position to take second place in the Eastern Conference. The Boys in Gold will have their chance to knock down another contender with a Sunday trip to Orlando City SC.
- 6′ CIN GOAL – NSH 4 Dave Romney (OG, sliding, forced by left-footed deep cross by 6 Haris Medunjanin)
- 17′ CIN GOAL – 9 Brenner (right-footed PK, conceded by 4 Romney)
- 21′ NSH Yellow card – 2 Dan Lovitz (foul)
- 28′ NSH GOAL – 25 Walker Zimmerman (headed), assisted by 10 Hany Mukhtar (free kick)
- 32′ CIN GOAL – 19 Brandon Vazquez (right foot outside the box, breakaway after interception)
- 35′ CIN Yellow card – 12 Geoff Cameron
- 45’+2 NSH GOAL – 8 Randall Leal (right foot, outside the box, after rebound)
- 45’+4 Half time
- HT NSH Substitution – On 72 Aké Loba, off 26 Luke Haakenson
- 66′ NSH Substitution – 23 Taylor Washington, off 2 Dan Lovitz
- 70′ CIN Yellow card – 11 Luciano Acosta (foul)
- 71′ NSH GOAL – 17 CJ Sapong (right foot, first touch), assisted by 25 Walker Zimmerman (head-on), Hany Mukhtar (right-footed free-kick)
- 76′ NSH GOAL – 8 Randall Leal (right left foot, outside the box), assisted by 10 Hanny Mukhtar (square pass)
- 80′ NSH GOAL – 72 Ake Loba (right foot, one-v-one with keeper), assisted by 8 Randall Leal (throughball)
- 81′ CIN Substitutions –
- On 15 Kamohelo Makotjo, off 33 Caleb Stanko
- On 20 Calvin Harris, off 7 Yuya Kubo
- 84′ NSH Substitutions –
- On 5 Jack Maher, off 27 Tah Brian Anunga
- On 19 Alex Muyl, off 8 Randall Leal
- 84′ CIN Substitution – On 31 Alvaro Barreal, off 9 Brenner
- 90′ NSH Substitution – On 22 Matt LaGrassa, off 10 Hany Mukhtar
- 90′ CIN Substitutions –
- On 23 Isaac Atanga, off 16 Zico Bailey
- On 29 Arquimides Ordonez, off 6 Haris Medunjanin
- 90’+2 NSH GOAL – 17 CJ Sapong (right foot, breakaway), assisted by 72 Aké Loba (square pass)
- 90’+4 Full time