Nashville SC’s reputation for playing unexciting games took a hit Saturday night. Unfortunately, the Boys in Gold were also to keep another aspect of the reputation intact: earning draws. Toronto FC’s four goals tied season highs for both the Reds’ attack and Nashville’s defense, and the visitors head back to Canada with a 4-3 victory.
A positive start for the Boys in Gold faded with a strike out of the blue for TFC midfielder Jonathan Osorio in the 19th minute. After collecting the ball near the top of the box, the Canada International left Nashville midfielder Dax McCarty in his dust as he cut onto his left foot, and when Walker Zimmerman’s attempt block couldn’t stop the shot, keeper Joe Willis was wrong-footed with no chance to keep it out. Nashville responded with a penalty kick from MVP candidate Hany Mukhtar. After keeper Alex Bono was deemed to have fouled striker CJ Sapong after being chipped, his strike partner blasted the ball into the upper corner to level the score.
The teams would trade goals again in the closing minutes of the half. Osorio’s second of the day arose from a seemingly-innocuous situation yet again. With Toronto stalled near he top of Nashville’s penalty area, on-rushing fullback Richie Laryea accepted a pass into space from attack Federico Bernardeschi, and hit a low cross first-time. The ball squeaked past Zimmerman’s attempted block, and Osorio had timed his run perfectly to tap into the open net.
Teal Bunbury scored for the fourth time in as many games to bring the teams level once more just before the halftime whistle. A corner kick from Mukhtar took a slight deflection off the head of centerback Dave Romney, and Bunbury got a second head to it, rerouting on frame and past Bono.
After the break, though, Toronto managed to wrest control over the contest. Bernardeschi converted a 54th-minute penalty after Dan Lovitz fouled Laryea in the box, and then another thunderbolt strike from outside the box – this one from Lorenzo Insigne – opened up the first multi-goal lead in the 77th. Zimmerman managed to pull one back for Nashville in the 84th minute, but the hosts couldn’t find the equalizer, and Toronto’s season-high four goals (and for the second time this season, Nashville’s highest-ever four goals conceded) were enough to hold off for the 4-3 victory.
It will be little consolation to Nashville that – yet again – there was a healthy edge in expected goal margin (2.29-1.82, according to American Soccer Analysis). Toronto’s major stars stepped up in the second half, and the Boys in Gold simply didn’t have the firepower to respond. It wasn’t Nashville’s shooting that was the problem, but rather allowing Toronto goals to arrive at the end of otherwise-innocent situations. A club that’s had plenty of opportunity to do some soul-searching in recent weeks will have a new area to explore as it looks inward.
The All-Star break – for a game that includes Nashville’s Mukhtar and Zimmerman – means a chance for the team’s reflections to happen in a lower-pressure situation than the grind of the recent season. Results around the league also mean that the loss only keeps NSC at sixth place in the Western Conference for the time being. If Nashville can figure out a way to recapture some of the home magic of Nissan Stadium (overcoming what has been a weirdly-difficult GEODIS Park for the home team to find victory), the chance for a rebound beckons. But time is running low, and that uptick in form must happen quickly. As it stands, the team has won just once in the past eight games, five of them at home.
Nashville next hosts Minnesota United Sunday evening. The teams drew 1-1 in St. Paul back in March.
- 2′ NSH Yellow card – 6 Dax McCarty (foul)
- 19′ TOR GOAL – 21 Jonathan Osorio (left-footed, outside the box, after dribble)
- 24′ NSH Yellow card – 54 Sean Davis (persistent infringement)
- 40′ TOR Yellow card – 19 Richie Laryea (time-wasting)
- 41′ NSH GOAL – 10 Hany Mukhtar (right-footed penalty to upper-right corner), penalty earned by 17 CJ Sapong (fouled by keeper in box)
- 44′ TOR GOAL – 21 Jonathan Osorio (tap-in at back post), assisted by 19 Richie Laryea (right-footed ground cross)
- 45’+4 NSH GOAL – 12 Teal Bunbury (headed corner-kick), assisted by 4 Dave Romney (headed flick-on) and 10 Hany Mukhtar (right-footed in-swinging corner)
- 45’+6 Half time
- 54′ TOR GOAL – 10 Federico Bernardeschi (left-footed penalty kick to upper-right corner), earned by 19 Richie Laryea (fouled by Dan Lovitz)
- 61′ NSH Yellow card – 17 CJ Sapong (foul)
- 64′ TOR Substitution – On 7 Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, off 19 Richie Laryea
- 71′ TOR Yellow card – 7 Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty
- 77′ TOR GOAL – 24 Lorenzo Insigne (right foot, outside the box), assisted by 4 Michael Bradley
- 79′ NSH Substitutions –
- On 15 Eric Miller, off 18 Shaq Moore
- On 26 Luke Haakenson, off 19 Alex Muyl
- 79′ TOR Substitutions –
- On 20 Ayo Akinola, off 9 Jesús Jiménez
- On 29 DeAndre Kerr, off 11 Jayden Nelson
- 84′ NSH GOAL – 25 Walker Zimmerman (headed from corner kick), assisted by 10 Hany Mukhtar (out-swinging corner kick)
- 89′ NSH Substitution – On 11 Ethan Zubak, off 6 Dax McCarty
- 90’+2 TOR Substitutions –
- On 15 Doneil Henry, off 10 Federico Bernardeschi
- On 47 Kosi Thompson, off 21 Jonathan Osorio
- 90’+4 Full time