Photo by Mike Meredith/Club and Country
For the first time since May 18, Nashville SC walked off the pitch at GEODIS Park Wednesday evening with a victory in hand. Three draws and a loss (and yes, an international break) separated the wins of the Boys in Gold. In a non-shocking turn of events, it was Hany Mukhtar who delivered it.
Late in a first half in which Nashville didn’t dominate possession, but did dominate chances, Mukhtar delivered one of his trademark moments of magic. Or, more accurately, he teamed up with fellow key attackers Randall Leal and CJ Sapong to combine for the difference-maker.
With Seattle star Nico Lodeiro lazy on the ball entering Nashville’s attacking third, Leal snuck up from behind and dispossessed him. The awareness to launch a longball to Sapong led to a break, and Sapong squared to Mukhtar for the first-tough finish past Stefan Cleveland. The 44th-minute goal would prove to be enough.
If not for the finish, Cleveland may well have been the man of the first half – he made four saves, including during a flurry of Nashville set-piece opportunities in dangerous areas. A near-olimpico from Mukhtar in the 31st minute would have been a highlight itself.
After the break, Nashville conceded possession but didn’t give Seattle many more opportunities (seven total shots for the game, just one in the first half) to level the score. On the most-dangerous moment, goalkeeper Joe Willis stood tall. In his second game back from a mid-season respite – complete with some time for backup Elliot Panicco – Willis wasn’t called into action much. But in the 69th minute, a deflected shot by Seattle defender Nouhou Tolo looked destined to be a bad beat for the veteran. Diving to cover the far post, and a defender knocks it back where you came from? Feels tough. Willis had no interest in feeling that way, and managed to reach his right hand up to knock the ball out of the open goal and off the far post, keeping a clean sheet.
From there, Nashville was content to cede possession as long as the Sounders didn’t turn that into a goal, and the vintage Boys in Gold – and not he vintage of the past five-plus games – showed out.
With the 1-0 victory, Nashville climbs, at least for now, into third place in the Western Conference, a far cry from the negative feelings of a stretch of just a single win in five contests. It won’t be easy to keep the good vibes rolling, though: an LAFC team that leads the league in points per game visits GEODIS Park Sunday evening with a chance for Nashville to put a stamp on its intent to host a home playoff game come the end of the regular season.
- 44′ NSH GOAL – 10 Hany Mukhtar (right-foot, first-touch, on counter), assisted by 17 CJ Sapong (square pass) and 8 Randall Leal (pass over the top)
- 45’+2 NSH Yellow card – 19 Alex Muyl (time-wasting)
- 45’+3 – Half time
- 57′ SEA Substitutions –
- On 17 Will Bruin, off 12 Fredy Montero
- On 75 Danny Leyva, off 94 Jimmy Medranda
- 73′ NSH Substitutions –
- On 12 Teal Bunbury, off 17 CJ Sapong
- On 27 Brian Anunga, off 54 Sean Davis
- 76′ SEA Substitutions –
- On 3 Xavier Arreaga, off 16 Abdoulaye Cissoko
- On 23 Leo Chú, off 16 Alex Roldán
- 88′ NSH Substituions –
- On 4 Dave Romney, off 19 Alex Muyl
- On 26 Luke Haakenson, off 8 Randall Leal
- 90’+2 NSH Substitution – On 9 Aké Loba, off 10 Hany Mukhtar
- 90’+5 Full time