Nashville overcome poor start to draw Cincinnati in 2021 opener

NASHVILLE, TN – It may have been 910 days since Nashville SC and FC Cincinnati last met. They made it worth the wait, with a two-two draw to start their MLS seasons with a bang. The fifth competitive meeting between the two sides going back to their time in USL again resulted in a draw, with still no winner decided between the two in regulation.

Gary Smith made no real surprises with his starting lineup, rolling out the same lineup that closed out the 2020 season. All three DPs started the match, with Jhonder Cádiz getting the nod upfront, despite not playing in either of Nashville’s preseason friendlies.

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The match got off to a fast start, and it was Cincinnati who drew first blood. Leftback Rónald Matarrita played one-two pass with Luciano Acosta, who made a hard run into the box before deftly finishing past Joe Willis.

It went from bad to worse quickly for Nashville. VAR ruled that Joe Willis took down Brenner after a sloppy touch in his own box, and the young Brazilian striker buried his effort from the spot.

Nashville had been pinned back in their own end for the first 20 minutes, but the momentum shifted when Randall Leal found Jhonder Cádiz in the box with a driven cross. The DP striker was greeted with an empty net, and made no mistake to score his first goal of the young season.

For the rest of the match, it was all Nashville. The Boys in Gold continued to throw numbers forward, and were consistently denied by Przemyslaw Tyton. The Cincinnati goalkeeper stood on his head to keep the Blue and Orange in the match.

Nashville finally found an equalizer through Leal. The Costa Rican picked up the ball on the right side of the box, ripped a ball into the top corner from an unusual angle. It might have been intended as a cross, but it found the back of the net and pulled Nashville level.

For the final 25 minutes, Nashville pressed hard for a winner. Tyton again denied point blank efforts from Handwalla Bwana and debutant CJ Sapong, and Dave Romney rang the bar with a header off a set piece.

Three things

  • Nashville created plenty of chances. After last season’s slow start, a stated goal for Nashville was to pick up where they left off and create chances from open play. They took 32 shots, forced Tyton into 11 saves, and created 3.07 expected goals. A win would have been great, but they laid to rest a lot of concerns with a strong display in the final third.
  • Jhonder Cádiz got off the mark. After scoring two goals in seven appearances to close out the season, Cádiz got off the mark early. Starting ahead of CJ Sapong, he was a consistent dangerous presence in the final third. He linked well with Mukhtar at times, and occupied plenty of attention from Cincinnati’s centerbacks.
  • Slow start cost Nashville three points. Nashville started the match really slowly. They looked like a side that had played just twice in preseason, with sloppy touches and poor communication. They were pinned back by Cincinnati for the opening 20 minutes, and really didn’t come to life until Leal and Cádiz combined to open the scoring.


Shots: Nashville 32 – 7 Cincinnati
Shots on target: Nashville 13 – 2 Cincinnati
Expected goals: Nashville 3.1 – 1.9 Cincinnati
Goals: Nashville 2 – 2 Cincinnati
Possession: Nashville 58% – 42% Cincinnati
Fouls: Nashville 15 – 15 Cincinnati
Yellow cards: Nashville 2 – 2 Cincinnati
Red cards: Nashville 0 – 0 Cincinnati


Up next

Nashville take on CF Montréal next Saturday at 1PM central. Montréal beat Toronto 4-2 in their first match of the season.

Author: Ben Wrightis the Director of Soccer Content and a Senior MLS Contributor for Broadway Sports covering Nashville SC and the US National Team. Previously Ben was the editor and a founder of Speedway Soccer, where he has covered Nashville SC and their time in USL before journeying to Major League Soccer since 2018. Raised in Louisville, KY Ben grew up playing before a knee injury ended his competitive career. When he is not talking soccer he is probably producing music, drinking coffee or hanging out with his wife and kids. Mastodon

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