CJ Sapong courtesy Nashville SC
For the second weekend in a row, Nashville SC faced the worst team in the Western Conference. For the second weekend in a row, Nashville ensured that the opponent wouldn’t walk out of GEODIS Park with that ignominious distinction. This time around, it was Sporting Kansas City earning just its fourth win of the year – and first away from Children’s Mercy Park – with a 2-1 victory.
Nashville native – and SKC Homegrown – Felipe Hernandez opened the scoring, bouncing home a long free kick in the 41st minute. NSC keeper Joe Willis seemed to be playing for a deflection that never came, and the Wiz had a rare road lead. After a listless first half in which neither team threatened – but Nashville certainly looked the stronger of the two – it sent the teams to the locker room feeling very different about what could or should have been a scoreless draw.
After the break, another lightning bolt doubled SKC’s lead. Former US International Graham Zusi collected a pass outside the Nashville penalty area, and after cutting to the inside, drilled a lefty rocket into the far netting. Once again, the Boys in Gold were hit from a shot out of the blue, but this time, it was a moment of individual brilliance, rather than a fluky bounce that put the ball past Joe Willis.
Nashville wouldn’t go down without a fight. A number of counter-attacks provided promise, and it was star-crossed designated player Aké Loba who would claw back a goal. He banged home a rebound after a Hany Mukhtar shot on the counter, giving the hosts a sign of life. Loba would make a crucial error not long thereafter, though, holding the ball a beat too long before feeding Mukhtar on another opportunity. While Mukhtar would feed striker CJ Sapong – and Sapong would net the ball – he was correctly deemed offside by the assistant referee.
Nashville’s final significant chance would once again be wiped away by an offside call – and this time requiring a Video Assistant Review to overturn what appeared to be a surefire penalty opportunity (with Roger Espinoza’s yellow card for kicking the ball off the penalty spot an insignificant price to pay for initiating the delay that led to the review, and the overturn). A hairline decision went against Nashville, and finally the last gust of wind went out of their sails.
The loss – a first at GEODIS Park, and first in any home venue since Nov. 4, 2020 – doesn’t move Nashville out of sixth place in the West, but with two more games played than No. 7 Seattle Sounders and just three points separating the teams, it’s likely to do so by the time the games in-hand are made up. More importantly, Nashville fell to an opponent that should have been overmatched, the second-straight disappointment after a draw against San Jose Earthquakes a week ago. Certainly, without centerback Walker Zimmerman, who picked up a minor knock on international duty, and with some crucial personnel coming off the bench – including the return of winger Randall Leal from an ankle injury – there are reasons to believe that the result isn’t an indictment on who the team is. But it certainly demonstrates that it’s a side susceptible to being beaten when it’s not on its game.
A trip to Washington DC beckons – and yet another should-be beatable squad is on the docket – with a Saturday afternoon (4 p.m. CDT) kickoff against DC United next Saturday.
- 40′ NSH Yellow card – 20 Aníbal Godoy (foul)
- 41′ SKC GOAL – 21 Felipe Hernandez (right-footed free kick from way downtown, earned by 28 Cam Duke)
- 45’+1 Half time
- HT NSH Substitution – On 9 Aké Loba, off 27 Tah Brian Anunga
- 51′ SKC GOAL – 8 Graham Zusi (left foot, outside the box), assisted by 54 Remi Walter
- 63′ NSH GOAL – 9 Aké Loba (right footed, rebound after fast-break shot from 10 Hany Mukhtar)
- 64′ NSH Substitutions –
- On 6 Dax McCarty, off 20 Aníbal Godoy
- On 23 Taylor Washington, off 4 Dave Romney
- 74′ SKC Substitution – On 15 Roger Espinoza, off 28 Cam Duke
- 76′ NSH Substitution – On 8 Randall Leal, off 15 Eric Miller
- 80′ SKC Substitution – On 12 Kortne Ford, off 54 Remi Walter
- 81′ SKC Yellow card – 29 Tim Melia (time-wasting)
- 86′ SKC Yellow card – 7 Johnny Russell (foul)
- 89′ SKC Yellow card – 15 Roger Espinoza (dissent)
- 90’+7 SKC Substitution – On 24 Kayden Pierre, off 7 Johnny Russell
- 90’+9 Full time