ST. PAUL, Minn. – In a driving rain, Nashville SC was at-times dominant against Minnesota United FC, and looked poised to not only hold a 1-0 lead, but add to it. After a 74-minute lightning delay, the Boys in Gold couldn’t withstand the Loons’ pressure, and conceded a late equalizer to split the points in the Twin Cities.
The Yotes got on board early, scoring in just the fifth minute of play. Dax McCarty’s long service from midfield looked relatively innocuous at first, but numbers in the box for Nashville SC – not always a guarantee for a team better-known for solidity at the back than a high-flying attack – meant MVP candidate Hany Mukhtar was there to serve it across the face of goal, with striker CJ Sapong breaking away from his marker to finish and give the visitors the lead.
The game devolved into some chippiness from there. Mukhtar took a beating (or did a semi-convincing job diving regularly), and even felt he had two legitimate penalty shouts – and certainly had at least one in the second half, though VAR did not call for a more extensive review – but was unable to make the difference a second time.
In the 42nd minute, Minnesota had a prime opportunity to equalize. After a corner kick, the Loons recovered in mindfield, and against an unsettled Nashville backline, service to striker Luis Amarilla saw the Paraguayan box out Walker Zimmerman and turn for a shot on the edge of the six-yard box, but his attempt was just over the outstretched arm of keeper Joe Willis – and the crossbar. Randall Leal had back-to-back chances near the end of the first half, striking the post on a shot from distance, and then firing just wide on a subsequent attempt. Minnesota almost responded to level the score with defender Bakaye Dibassy hitting the outside of Willis’s post moments before the halftime whistle.
The game played out similarly to begin the second half, but with lightning in the area, play was suspended for over an hour. When it resumed with a Nashville drop ball in the 54th minute, the momentum was gone. Coming out of the lightning delay, Minnesota tilted the field in Nashville’s direction, with keeper Joe Willis having to clear long on a couple occasions as the Boys in Gold were pinned in their own end.
Ironically, it was after Nashville had managed to even out the pressure that Minnesota managed to equalize. A long ball saw Alex Muyl recover to make an awkward challenge and foul midfielder Hassani Dotson near the Nashville endline. The ensuing set piece saw Dotson finish what he started, bundling home after Nashville couldn’t clear the first attempt.
Nashville pushed numbers forward again, but couldn’t build any sustained attacking sequences, and aside from the second of Mukhtar’s appeals for penalty, thee only true chance was a blocked Randall Leal shot that saw Mukhtar strike at the rebound… only to see the shot die in a muddy patch that developed in Minnesota’s penalty area while the game was delayed.
Ultimately, splitting the points was a fair result, though Nashville will fly home with plenty of regret: conceding on a set piece after an intense off-season focus on not doing so, losing momentum due to a weather delay, and then missing out on limited chances to equalize.
With the draw, Nashville remains atop the West for now (with more of this weekend’s games yet to be played). NSC will next travel to Dallas for the third leg of its eight-game opening stretch away from Music City – and the opening of a new home stadium May 1. FC Dallas has taken just one point from the first two games of the year, and certainly Nashville will head to Texas hoping to wipe the bad taste away after this one.
- 5′ NSH GOAL – 17 CJ Sapong (right foot, fits touch), assisted by 10 Hany Mukhtar (left foot square ball from Man City zone) and 6 Dax McCarty (ball over the top to Mukhtar)
- 20′ MIN Yellow card – 31 Hassani Dotson (foul)
- 26′ NSH Yellow card – 54 Sean Davis (foul)
- 31′ MIN Yellow card – 12 Bakaye Dibassy (foul)
- 45’+1 Half time
- HT MIN subs:
- On 21 Bongokuhle Hlongwane, off 7 Franco Fragapane
- On 27 DJ Taylor, off 14 Brent Kallman
- 54′ Interminable lightning delay (1:10)
- 54′ NSH Substitution – On 19 Alex Muyl, off 6 Dax McCarty
- 58′ NSH Yellow card – 20 Aníbal Godoy (foul)
- 71′ MIN GOAL – 31 Hassani Dotson (right foot, sliding, rebound from set piece)
- 73′ NSH Substitution – On 12 Teal Bunbury, off 17 CJ Sapong
- 88′ NSH Substitutions:
- On 9 Aké Loba, off 10 Hany Mukhtar
- On 27 Tah Brian Anunga, off 6 Dax McCarty
- 90’+4 Full time