Jack Maher photo courtesy Nashville SC
Hany Mukhtar may be in the running for Major League Soccer’s MVP award. And make no mistake: the German’s pair of set-piece assists played a crucial role in Nashville SC’s victory in Vancouver Saturday evening. But the player on the receiving end of those assists was certainly man of the match: third-year centerback Jack Maher scored his second and third professional goals to lead the Boys in Gold to a rout on the road.
A comfortable victory over a short-handed opponent may be the expectation in MLS, and Nashville did indeed benefit from playing the final 40 minutes with a man advantage after an inexcusable stomping incident from Vancouver forward Lucas Cavallini. The motivation for the step on the head of Alex Muyl (only eight minutes after Cavallini entered as a halftime sub, no less), however, was likely that his team was already trailing by a trio of goals. Playing 11v10 helped Nashville cruise to the finish line, but it wasn’t necessary to build that lead in the first place.
Randall Leal got the scoring started in the 19th minute, firing low to the far post from outside the box. After collecting the ball near the top of his own penalty area, Leal’s solo run and confident finish set the tone for the remainder of the proceedings.
Maher’s first didn’t come much later. Just four minutes after Leal scored, a corner-kick situation saw service from Mukhtar find the head of the defender, and he nodded it past keeper Thomas Hasal. Shortly after the halftime break, another Maher goal – once again assisted by Mukhtar, whose dead-ball service was nodded back across the face of goal by striker Ethan Zubak – saw a looping header nestle to the far post and put the game on ice.
With Cavallini putting his team down a man (and the Canada international will likely find himself out of the squad for a couple more matches, given the cynical and violent nature of the infraction), it was about seeing out the result, and Nashville was able to do just that. For the second game in a row, they managed to complete a defensive effort that saw the opponent finish without a single shot on-target. The lone disappointment of the second half may well have been a penalty kick by Dax McCarty that Hasal was able to paw away, preventing the second straight 4-0 victory.
As things stand a two-game aggregate score of 7-0 in wins over FC Dallas and tonight’s over Vancouver ties a club record for scoring in back-to-back games, and is the first time the Boys in Gold have won both games of a two-game sequence in which they’ve notched seven total.
With the victory, Nashville climbs to fifth in the Western Conference table, with a goal-difference tiebreaker over sixth-place Real Salt Lake. A two-match win streak – the club’s first since April – sees the club entering strong form at the right time. The club next takes the field Wednesday, welcoming Colorado Rapids to GEODIS Park with a chance to further solidify the club’s position in the playoff field.
- 19′ NSH GOAL – 8 Randall Leal (right foot, from outside box, after dribble)
- 23′ NSH GOAL – 5 Jack Maher (headed), assisted by 10 Hany Mukhtar (out-swinging right-footed free kick)
- 36′ VAN Yellow card – 23 Javain Brown (foul)
- 44′ VAN Yellow card – 6 Tristan Blackmon (foul)
- 45’+2 Half time
- HT VAN Substitutions –
- On 9 Lucas Cavallini, off 27 Ryan Raposo
- On 11 Cristian Dajome, off 16 Sebastian Berhalter
- 49′ NSH GOAL – 5 Jack Maher (headed to far corner), assisted by 11 Ethan Zubak (head-across) and 10 Hany Mukhtar (right-footed free kick)
- 53′ VAN RED CARD – 9 Lucas Cavallini (serious foul play, stomp on head of Alex Muyl)
- 63′ NSH Yellow card – 23 Taylor Washington
- 65′ NSH Substitutions –
- On 14 Jacob Shaffelburg, off 8 Randall Leal
- On 26 Luke Haakenson, off 10 Hany Mukhtar
- 66′ VAN Substitutions –
- On 2 Marcus Godinho, off 23 Javain Brown
- On 45 Pedro Vite, off 18 Alessandro Schöpf
- 73′ VAN Substitution – On 87 Tosaint Ricketts, off 24 Brian White
- 76′ NSH Yellow card – 54 Sean Davis (foul)
- 78′ NSH Substitutions –
- On 2 Dan Lovitz, off 11 Ethan Zubak
- On 27 Brian Anunga, off 20 Aníbal Godoy
- 85′ NSH Substitution – On 6 Dax McCarty, off 54 Sean Davis
- 90′ NSH Yellow card – 2 Dan Lovitz (foul)
- 90’+3 Full time