Teal Bunbury photo courtesy Nashville SC
Nashville SC’s brief run of good form may have been a mirage. Or FC Cincinnati just might be the real deal after an ignominious beginning to its MLS tenure. Either way, the Boys in Gold headed up to the Queen City, took an early lead, and couldn’t hold on for victory in a 1-1 draw.
The opening goal was a spectacular one. Veteran forward Teal Bunbury – standing practically in the goalmouth – went full bicycle kick, hammering home a rebound after Walker Zimmerman’s set-piece header caught just enough of rookie keeper Roman Celentano to bound toward NSC’s waiting support. Within six minutes, the Boys in Gold held the lead, and for some time, looked like they wouldn’t relinquish it.
While NSC ceded possession for stretches in the remainder of the first half – whether by design, or because the midfield passing was not as crisp as necessary against a solid opponent – there was little actual threat from the hosts. Cincinnati consistently found pockets to possess in Nashville’s attacking third, but couldn’t turn those into efforts that troubled the Nashville goal.
After the break, it didn’t take long for Cincinnati to solve Nashville SC. They followed a playbook that has been all-but necessary to score on NSC over the course of three years in MLS: capitalize on set pieces. A corner kick from Yuya Kubo went not for the targets inside the six-yard box, but rather to midfielder Álvaro Barreal at the top of the penalty area. His lefty volley chopped off the turf, and bounced up nicely for striker Brandon Vazquez to head home. Tie game.
In a rivalry that saw the teams draw every match as USL opposition, and bring that trend to their opening duel in MLS, Nashville’s two-game win streak would ultimately be snapped by FCC – and the trend of coming up level returned. Both sides created danger over the remainder of the game, but substitution patterns for each indicated that both would be content to finish with a draw – though glad on the off-chance an opportunity to win the match availed itself. Nashville’s most enticing chance came late when a backpass to Celentano was underhit, and substitute striker Ethan Zubak couldn’t quite beat him to the ball for a clear shot on goal.
In the end, a very different FC Cincinnati team than the impotent units of the past three years is hardly an opponent that brings embarrassment in the mere act of a draw – after all, five of their previous seven games (including road matches against Philadelphia Union and New England Revolution) had finished level.
With the draw, Nashville remains fifth in the Western conference, now on 31 points. The Boys in Gold have a chance to get back on the winning side of the ledger in a week’s time: hosting 10th-place Vancouver Whitecaps could be just what the doctor ordered. The game kicks off at 7 p.m. Saturday evening from GEODIS Park.
- 6′ NSH GOAL – 12 Tea Bunbury (bicycle kick on the doorstep, from rebound), initial shot by 25 Walker Zimmerman (headed from corner-kick situation)
- 39′ NSH Yellow card – 19 Alex Muyl (foul)
- 45’+4 Half time
- 52′ CIN GOAL – 19 Brandon Vazquez (headed), assisted by Álvaro Barreal (left-footed chopped ball from top of penalty area) and Yuya Kubo (corner kick)
- 61′ NSH Yellow card – 2 Dan Lovitz (foul)
- 62′ CIN Substitution – On 93 Júnior Moreno, off 2 Alvas Powell
- 70′ NSH Substitutions –
- On 15 Eric Miller, off 19 Alex Muyl
- On 26 Luke Haakenson, off 12 Teal Bunbury
- 71′ CIN Substitution – On 8 Allan Cruz, off 7 Yuya Kubo
- 73′ CIN Yellow card – 12 Geoff Cameron
- 83′ NSH Substitutions –
- On 23 Taylor Washington, off 2 Dan Lovitz
- On 27 Brian Anunga, off 8 Randall Leal
- 83′ CIN Substitutions –
- On 24 Tyler Blackett, off 12 Geoff Cameron
- On 20 Calvin Harris, off 3 John Nelson
- 87′ NSH Substitution – On 11 Ethan Zubak, off 17 CJ Sapong
- 90’+7 Full time