A an energetic and creative first half from Nashville SC wasn’t enough to earn all three points in Kansas City. After opening the scoring and creating several chances, a second half collapse allowed Sporting KC to run away with the match.
Head coach Gary Smith switched back to his preferred 4-4-1-1 formation, with Abu Danladi fit and able to giving Nashville a more natural forward option. Derrick Jones dropped back to an attacking midfield role, with Randall Leal and Alex Muyl working the flanks.
Similarly to their match against Minnesota United five days prior, Nashville started the match brightly. Randall Leal in particular caused Sporting problems, smashing the bar from a tight angle in the second minute, and forcing Sporting ‘keeper into a solid save with an effort from range.
Leal set up the opening goal for Nashville. The winger drilled a corner kick into the box, where Walker Zimmerman rose above the defense to power a header home. It was the center-back’s first goal since Nashville’s debut match in MLS back in February, bringing him level with Daniel Ríos for the team’s leading scorer.
Nashville continued to created after their goal. Abu Danladi nearly added a second goal just six minutes later, putting a shot narrowly wide from close range.
Unfortunately, the match was a tale of two halves.
Sporting equalized in the 53rd minute. Winger Johnny Russell went on a run down Nashville’s left side, breezing past Dan Lovitz and putting a cross through the legs of Dave Romney, where Gerso Fernandez was waiting to tuck it home into an empty net.
The goal was a poor one to concede, but just 60 seconds later, Nashville dug the hole a little deeper.
Straight from the ensuing kickoff, Nashville turned the ball over. Gianluca Busio drove at the defense and pulled Alistair Johnston into a foul. The rookie right back was on a yellow card already, and deservedly received a second, sending him off.
After going down to 10 men, Nashville went into defend mode. Smith surprisingly opted to withdraw Walker Zimmerman in the 64th minute, but confirmed after the match that the defender was dealing with an issue. “Walker’s been playing with a problem,” Smith said. “I wanted to make sure that problem didn’t become an issue that we lose him for a period. He’s a warrior of an individual. He was touch and go during the warmup, so to get him for an hour was good for us.”
Nashville switched to a 5-3-1 formation after the red card, bringing on Eric Miller and Jalil Anibaba on the back line, as well as Jack Maher in his MLS debut.
However, Sporting took advantage of a moment of brilliance from Erik Hurtado to claim all three points. Left back Amadou Dia floated in a long diagonal ball to the striker, who hit a stunning volley past Joe Willis to put Sporting ahead.
Nashville struggled to create chances with just 10 men, and the Hurtado volley was enough to give the home side the victory.
After a strong start, and being the better side for much of the opening 53 minutes, it was a disappointing result for the expansion side.
“I’m disappointed to get beat,” said Gary Smith. “To be one-nil up, ten minutes after halftime, was not something I’ll forget.”
Nashville SC have a quick turnaround. They’ll travel to take on the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday evening.