NASHVILLE – It didn’t take long for New York Red Bulls to strike fear into the hearts of Nashville SC – 38 seconds, to be precise. Striker Fabio juggled past Nashville defender Eric Miller, and hammered the ball low past goalkeeper Joe Willis, and gave the visitors a lead in Nissan Stadium. However, Nashville’s MVP candidate Hany Mukhtar rescued a result for his team, and the sides split points with a 1-1 draw.
With the result, Nashville SC seals third place in the Eastern Conference, and is set to host Orlando City SC in a first-round playoff match, set for Nov. 23 at Nissan Stadium. The winner travels to Philadelphia (or hosts this Red Bulls team) in the second round, crucially avoiding a second-round battle with a New England Revolution team that set the single-season record for points.
While the first half featured all the scoring, it was a relatively uneventful from aside from the early moment of brilliance from Fabio and Mukhtar’s 37th-minute one-upsmanship.
The second half featured more end-to-end action – perhaps with a Nashville eye on the out-of-town scoreboard indicating that a draw between Philadelphia Union and New York City FC would be enough for the Boys in Gold to hold third even with a loss, but pass Philly in the event of a win.
NSC goalkeeper Joe Willis was called into action more than his typical outing, with four saves – including three impressive diving efforts. The Boys in Gold dominated possession, with a 60-40 advantage on the ball, but allowed 14 Red Bull shots, including one from Omir Fernandez that did manage to beat Willis, but rang the post in the 88th minute that would almost certainly have given the Red Bulls victory, and with it a climb to fifth in the final table.
Nashville’s best efforts at a winner came late in the contest on the feet (and heads) of substitutes Aké Loba and Jhonder Cádiz, as well as one opportunity for Mukhtar that was saved by Red Bull keeper Carlos Coronel (with the headed second effort squirting wide). As it stood, though, neither team could find that final piece of magic a second time, and the result was a fair one.
- 1′ RBNY GOAL – 9 Fabio (right-footed, after juggle), assisted by 23 Cristian Cásseres (cross from right)
- 14′ RBNY Yellow card – 27 Sean Davis (foul)
- 37′ NSH GOAL – 10 Hany Mukhtar (right-footed free kick), free kick earned by 2 Dan Lovitz
- 45’+2 Half time
- 55′ RBNY Substitution – On 6 Kyle Duncan, off 47 John Tolkin
- 71′ NSH Substitutions –
- On 6 Dax McCarty, off 2 Dan Lovitz
- On 72 Aké Loba, off 19 Alex Muyl
- On 99 Jhonder Cádiz, off 17 CJ Saponng
- 75′ RBNY Substitutions – On 21 Omir Fernandez, off 37 Caden Clark
- 76′ NSH Yellow card – 20 Aníbal Godoy (professional foul)
- 83′ RBNY Substitutions –
- On 44 Youba Diarra, off 16 Dru Yearwood
- On 74 Tom Barlow, off 9 Fabio
- 86′ RBNY Yellow card – 44 Youba Diarra (foul)
- 90’+5 Full time