It’d be fair to say Nashville SC did not dominate the run of play Saturday evening in Orlando. The Boy in Gold scored their first goal on a quick free kick against the run of play, and their second on a low-percentage chance with only 15 minutes remaining in regulation. The issue, of course, is that “dominate the run of play” is not significant when your humble author has had to describe two goals, while host Orlando City came up empty on the scoreboard. In the end, a first goal in Gold from Fafa Picault and a pair of goal contributions from Hany Mukhtar were more than enough for a 2-0 victory in the land of Disney.
Orlando mostly did in the first half what a home team hopes to do: dominate the ball and force the visitors into mistakes. The Lions had 60.3% of the ball, took six shots to Nashville’s three, and watched Luke Haakenson and Aníbal Godoy commit fouls that drew yellow cards. But a quick-thinking free kick from Mukhtar changed the game in the 28th minute.
The reigning league MVP was fouled in his own half, and while he had every right to protest the lack of a yellow card to center official Chris Penso (despite what ultimately could have been persistent infringement for fouls against Mukhtar, a recurring theme from a year ago), but instead made eye contact with Picault. A ball over the top saw the MLS veteran and former US International chip Orlando goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, and the game-winning goal was in the back of the net.
While it would ultimately stand as the winner, Orlando pressure would mount and cast some doubt that the single goal would be enough. Orlando took 12 shots, five of them on goal in the second half. But Nashville keeper Joe Willis came to play – and to make a difference for his team, with six saves including some impressive sprawling stops.
In the 74th, Mukhtar put an end to it himself. After leading the league in scoring last year, the German finally scored for himself on the season – rather than aiding his teammates, as the assist for Picault was the third of his year – running onto a throughball from right back Shaq Moore and banging home from a tight angle.
In a chippy match, Nashville was able to ride out the victory despite the territorial advantage for Orlando, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The Boys in Gold improve to 3-2-1 on the year, and climb to fifth place in the Eastern Conference for the time being. Hosting Toronto FC in Nashville on Saturday, Nashville SC can reestablish itself as a contender after the previous two weeks’ losses may have taken some shine out of the early-season success for the team. The game kicks at 7:30 CDT from GEODIS Park.
- 26′ NSH Yellow card – 26 Luke Haakenson (foul)
- 27′ NSH Yellow card – 20 Aníbal Godoy (foul)
- 28′ NSH GOAL – 7 Fafa Picault (right-footed chip on the breakaway), assisted by 10 Hany Mukhtar (quick restart free kick from his own half)
- 45’+2 Half time
- HT ORL Substitution – On 17 Facundo Torres, off 8 Felipe Martins
- 48′ ORL Yellow card – 15 Rodrigo Schlegel (foul)
- 64′ ORL Yellow card – 24 Kyle Smith (doing a shove)
- 64′ NSH Yellow card – 7 Fafa Picault (shovin’ right on back)
- 67′ NSH Substitutions –
- On 6 Dax McCarty, off 20 Aníbal Godoy
- On 23 Taylor Washington, off 26 Luyke Haakenson
- 74′ NSH GOAL – 10 Hany Mukhtar (right footed, first touch from a tight angle), assisted by 18 Shaq Moore (throughball from right wing)
- 77′ NSH Substitution – On 12 Teal Bunbury, off 17 CJ Sapong
- 78′ ORL Substitutions –
- On 13 Duncan McGuire, off 24 Kyle Smith
- On 22 Gastón Gonzalez, off 20 Luca Petrasso
- 82′ ORL Substitution – On 23 Dagger Dan® Thórhallsson, off 77 Ivan Angulo
- 82′ NSH Substitution – On 27 Brian Anunga, off 7 Fafa Picault
- 90’+5 Full time