Nashville SC and Minnesota United played out a scoreless draw on Tuesday night that had action to spare, but lacked a moment of real quality in front of goal to set either side apart.
It would be easy to look at Nashville’s injury report and assume the Boys In Gold would set out to defend against Minnesota United. Head coach Gary Smith was once again left without a recognizable striker, starting Derrick Jones, Alex Muyl and Randall Leal in a fluid front three, while Matt LaGrassa and Brian Anunga retained their places in midfield.
Nashville’s start to the match was surprisingly bright, given the attacking options they were missing. The front three of Jones, Muyl and Leal were able to cause problems for Minnesota’s defenders on the edge of the box, while fullback Alistair Johnston picked out a couple decent crosses from the right flank.
Jones put an effort from very close range past the post in the fifth minute. Nashville kept attacking, and had another chance to break the deadlock through Alex Muyl. The winger was able to control a pass from Johnston in the box, isolating goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair, but his effort was straight at the ‘keeper.
Nashville went into the break with plenty of momentum, but with no goals to show for it. Their 1.71 expected goals total was their highest first-half tally to date.
The second half was a different story. Where Nashville found joy down the right wing especially in the first half, Minnesota was able to shore up their defense, refusing to let Nashville get behind their fullbacks. After taking eight shots in the first half, the Boys In Gold managed just two in the second.
Nashville’s best chance of the half may not have ultimately counted. Leal played substitute Alan Winn through on goal, and the first-year MLS player had plenty of time and space to pick out a finish. Instead, he swung and missed, whiffing on a fantastic chance, ending what could have been the breakthrough moment. It may not have mattered. It looked like the assistant referee would have raised the flag for offside had Winn taken the shot, but it was certainly a “what if” moment for Nashville.
The final whistle sealed another scoreless draw, extending Nashville’s unbeaten run at Nissan Stadium to six matches. While a point against the fourth-placed side in the West certainly isn’t a bad result, the missed chances in the first half came back to haunt the side.
On one hand, it’s encouraging to finally see Nashville create consistent goal scoring chances. Putting players in positions to score has been a struggle this season. On the other, Nashville has scored just eleven goals this season. Only FC Cincinnati have scored fewer.
Nashville did create more clear-cut chances than fans are used to seeing from them. After the match, Smith said that forward Daniel Ríos is recovering from a “minor injury” and should be available for selection within the next week, a much needed boost for the Boys In Gold.
Designated player Jhonder Cádiz should be available for selection soon as well. Smith told media last week that he should begin training on Wednesday, and could see the field this weekend.
Nashville will hope that their strikers return quickly. They’ll also hope to continue creating consistent chances as the did in the opening exchanges of the match.
The point pushes Nashville into eighth place in the East on 18 points, with Atlanta and Montreal on 17 and set to play on Wednesday. Nashville are back in action on Sunday, traveling to the third-placed side in the West, Sporting Kansas City.
Shots: Nashville 10 – 13 Minnesota
Shots on goal: Nashville 3 – 4 Minnesota
Expected goals: Nashville 1.85 – 1.36 Minnesota
Goals: Nashville 0 – 0 Minnesota
Possession: Nashville 55.9% – 44.1% Minnesota
Yellow cards: Nashville 1 – 0 Minnesota
Red cards: Nashville 0 – 0 Minnesota