It was a triumphant return to play for Nashville SC. The Boys in Gold earned the first win in club history, 157 days after last taking the field. After a hard-fought battle, substitute David Accam was the hero, with a brilliant run and composed finish to seal the victory.
It was another new test for Nashville, who flew into Dallas on a charter flight hours before the match, and departed shortly after. The travel did nothing to dampen the expansion side’s enthusiasm, though. According to goalie Joe Willis, “we haven’t played a game in so long that the guys would’ve hitch-hiked here to play.”
With head coach Gary Smith back in Nashville after a false positive Covid test, assistant manager Steve Guppy took charge of this one, sending out a lineup with three changes from Nashville’s last match on March 8.
The first #NashvilleSC starting XI in 157 days!— Speedway Soccer (@SpeedwaySoc) August 12, 2020
Willis; Beckeles, Zimmerman, Romney, Lovitz; McCarty, Godoy; Mukhtar, Jones, Leal; Ríos
SUBS: Panicco, Anibaba, Johnston, Anunga, LaGrassa, Accam, Danladi, Badji#EveryoneN pic.twitter.com/eBpb5bxCnn
The opening exchanges were what you’d expect; choppy, sloppy, and rhythmless. However, as the game went on, Nashville grew into the game. Leal and Muktar began to find space in the final third, and both saw shots come close. Leal had a solid solo effort saved by Maurer following a driving run, and Mukhtar pulled a pair of strikes wide.
Nashville continued to build momentum after the break, finding more possession in the final third and hitting a few hopeful shots towards Dallas’s goal. Ríos had a header go over and a penalty shout rightly waived off.
Joe Willis put in a valiant second half for Nashville. The veteran ‘keeper pulled off several reflex saves to deny Dallas, and commanded the backline well against a mobile attack. “His hands were so clean,” said Guppy. “I thought he looked very, very solid, but we know that anyway. That’s why we brought him here.”
It was David Accam, however, who made the difference for the Boys in Gold. Just four minutes after coming on in the 82nd minute, the winger picked up a ball just inside Dallas’s half and went on a driving run. Accam cut inside from the left onto his favored right foot, and hit a curling shot past Maurer to the far post. It took a touch off of Hedges on its way to goal, but the goal was all Accam’s.
“I love games like this,” said Accam. “Speed and 1v1s are my strengths. We were defending a bit deeper and the ball came to me, and my mindset was to attack. I went for the kill.”
It was a well-deserved moment for the Ghanaian, who has endured a torrid start to life in Nashville. In addition to the the difficulties with the season, the winger’s home was severely damaged by the March tornadoes. “I haven’t had this in a long time,” he said. “Last year and this year has been really tough for me and my family. I was just happy to be on the field, and it’s a bonus to score and get our first win of the season.”
Guppy was quick to credit head coach Gary Smith. “I’m thrilled for everyone at the club,” he said. “We have a bit of joy tinged with a bit of sadness as well. It’s a shame Gary Smith isn’t here to enjoy it, but we have to acknowledge what an unbelievable job he’s done to set it up.”
Win three points under their belts, Nashville will fly home tonight before turning right around to Dallas on Sunday for the second match in their series. With Gary Smith on the touchline next time out, they’ll look to build on their first ever win in four days time.
“It’s just one game,” concluded Guppy, “but please forgive us for enjoying it a bit more than we would normally.”
SHOTS: Dallas 15 – 7 Nashville
SHOTS ON GOAL: Dallas 5 – 4 Nashville
GOALS: Dallas 0 – 1 Nashville
SAVES: Dallas 3 – 5 Nashville
POSSESSION: Dallas 64.1% – 35.9% Nashville
YELLOW CARDS: Dallas 1 – 4 Nashville
RED CARDS: Dallas 0 – 0 Nashville