Photo by Mike Meredith/Club and Country
Real Salt Lake was… not going to win in front of 28,226 fans in Nashville Sunday afternoon. The visitors attempted just six shots, and managed to get three past the first line of defense and only two on-frame (each of them resulting in a simple save for keeper Joe Willis. The question was whether Nashville SC would be able to find a winner, and Dave Romney provided just that in the 63rd minute before CJ Sapong added the insurance tally in second-half stoppage time at the Boys in Gold won 2-0.
Romney’s goal came at the conclusion of a set-piece opportunity that saw CJ Sapong’s headed attempt saved by RSL keeper Zac MacMath – but that punch took him out of his goal, and although Dax McCarty’s back-post pass to Walker Zimmerman was kept out, Romney was able to bang the rebound home. (And had he missed, a handball would likely have been the call on Zimmerman’s shot).
It was the culmination of a Nashville attacking effort that saw plenty of possession and pressure on the Salt Lake goal, but very little in the way of realistic efforts to beat MacMath. Once the Boys in Gold had the lead, though, it was clear that all that chipping away had paid off.
Although Nashville backed off in that timeframe, it also meant the opportunity to play on the counter, and second-half substitute Luke Haakenson slid a pass just behind CJ Sapong on the doorstep, where the striker was able to reach back slightly and give Nashville the insurance goal. After a disappointing 2-1 loss in Salt Lake City earlier this Spring, revenge was sweet for Nashville.
There was some bitterness with that sweet as well, though: attacking midfielder Randall Leal was substituted at halftime after a rough tackle by RSL striker Bobby Wood shortly before the break, and while that provided a lengthy run-out for Designated Player Aké Loba (who had some chances to run in-behind himself, though he was caught offside on the best opportunity), any missed time for Leal would be a hefty price to pay for Nashville.
With the win, Nashville is up to 15 points in 10 games, good for sixth in the Western Conference (a single point behind RSL with a game in-hand). The next time hitting the field at the Fairgrounds won’t be an opportunity to improve that standing: Nashville has a midweek contest in the US Open Cup, taking on longstanding rival Atlanta United Wednesday evening.
The Boys in Gold return to league play Saturday, traveling to Houston in their first road match since Opening GEODIS Park.
- 20′ RSL Yellow card – 25 Everton Luiz (foul)
- 45’+5 Half time
- HT NSH Substitution – On 9 Aké Loba, off 8 Randall Leal (injury)
- 49′ RSL Yellow card – 6 Pablo Ruiz (foul)
- 62′ RSL Substitution – On 28 Jasper Löffelsend, off 16 Maikel Chang
- 63′ NSH GOAL – 4 Dave Romney (first time left-footed volley on doorstep, from rebound. Initial shot by 25 Walker Zimmerman)
- 75′ RSL Substitutions –
- On 13 Nick Besler, off 30 Marcelo Silva
- On 29 Anderson Julio, off 14 Rubio Rubin
- 84′ RSL Substitutions –
- On 12 Scott Caldwell, off 25 Everton Luiz
- On 21 Tate Schmitt, off 2 Andrew Brody
- 86′ NSH Substitution – On 26 Luke Haakenson, off 10 Hany Mukhtar
- 88′ NSH Substitution – On 27 Tah Brian Anunga, off 54 Sean Davis
- 90’+2 NSH GOAL – 17 CJ Sapong (right-footed, first touch), assisted by 26 Luke Haakenson (square pass at six-yard box)
- 90’+3 NSH Substitution – On 11 Ethan Zubak, off 17 CJ Sapong
- 90’+7 Full time