Earlier this week, in Gary Smith’s meeting with the media, the Nashville SC head coach mentioned that his team may play a more progressive style in the opening game of its third year. Heading to the second-farthest destination in Major League Soccer, to take on a Seattle Sounders team that is always among the best in the league – and a seemingly-unanimous choice to top the Western Conference in 2022 – that seemed… a potential bit of gamesmanship, at best.
However, the Boys in Gold came out with an aggressive, front-foot style. While it didn’t work for the entirety of the 97 minutes, it wore down the Sounders, and Aníbal Godoy gave his team a late winner to top one of the powers of the league by a 1-0 score in their own house.
Despite pressing heavily and making life difficult for the Sounders to get out of their own end, legitimate chances were sparing in the early stages. Nashville had a dangerous first-half moment with Hany Mukhtar collecting a ball at the top of the area, opening up, and forcing a save out of Sounders keeper Stefan Frei. Defender Dan Lovitz, who provided the initial service, was deemed offside as he bore down on the rebound.
Seattle’s most dangerous moments came from the brothers Roldan. Right back Alex drove into the box late in the first half, and while Nashville SC closed quickly, Walker Zimmerman’s attempted clearance ricocheted off teammate Dax McCarty, and landed back at Roldan’s feet. His second chance was a meek one, though, and ultimately Joe Willis managed to collect a slow-moving ball near his goal line. In the second half, older brother Cristian Roldan couldn’t get on the end of a cross – he appealed for a foul on Lovitz as the two came together – but the ball was quickly recrossed, and he had an opportunity to head it. His quick reaction wasn’t enough to put the ball on frame, however.
In the 79th, Seattle substitute Léo Chú ran through an attempted tackle by Eric Miller and Dax McCarty, finding himself in space up the left flank. He drove into the box, but his shot attempt was blasted well over the bar. Nashville immediately generated an offensive opportunity out of the exchange, and while Teal Bunbury’s doorstep attempt was saved by Stefan Frei, the ball ended up on the wing – and on the foot of Randall Leal. The Costa Rican pushed to the endline, then slid a pass across the face of goal, where Godoy was waiting to dunk home at the back post, sneaking in behind a sleeping Alex Roldan.
A bevy of substitutions later, Nashville walked off the pitch at Lumen Field with one of the most daunting individual games on the schedule in the rearview mirror. And with a W scrawled next to it.
The win puts the team in a many-way tie at the top of the Western Conference (with three other teams also winning on Opening Day, while Austin and LAFC hold tiebreakers on goal differential). NSC will try to keep the good vibes rolling with a trip to Minnesota next Saturday. MNUFC drew the Philadelphia Union to begin the season.
- 18′ SEA Yellow card – 3 Xavier Arreaga (professional foul on Hany Mukhtar)
- 45’+2 Half time
- HT SEA Substitution – On 10 Nico Lodeiro, off 14 Samuel Adeniran
- 65′ SEA Substitution – On 23 Léo Chú, off 6 João Paulo
- 71′ NSH Substitution – On 12 Teal Bunbury, off 17 CJ Sapong
- 74′ SEA Substitutions –
- On 22 Kelyn Rowe, off 73 Obed Vargas
- On 12 Fredy Montero, off 13 Jordan Morris
- 80′ NSH GOAL – 20 Aníbal Godoy (left foot, open net on back post), assisted by 8 Randall Leal (right-footed ground cross)
- 82′ NSH Substitutions –
- On 9 Aké Loba, off 10 Hany Mukhtar
- On 19 Alex Muyl, off 8 Randall Leal
- 87′ SEA Substitution – On 75 Danny Leyva, off 3 Xavier Arreaga
- 89′ NSH Substitution – On 5 Jack Maher, off 54 Sean Davis
- 90’+5 SEA Yellow card – 22 Nouhou Tolo
- 90’+5 Full time