NASHVILLE, TN – Nashville SC beat Austin FC 1-0 in front of a packed Nissan Stadium to remain unbeaten through six matches. The Boys in Gold hung on through a nervy second half to take home the three points before an extended road trip over the next couple weeks.
For the third consecutive match, head coach Gary Smith continued with the 4-4-2. Jhonder Cádiz partnered CJ Sapong up top, while the rest of the team remained unchanged.
Nashville came out of the gates quickly, a welcome sight given their last several starts at home. The Boys in Gold pressed Austin constantly, putting their backline under pressure and forcing them into several mistakes on the ball.
Despite the constant pressure and dominating the run of play, Nashville didn’t have a slew of clear-cut chances in the first half. Jhonder Cádiz saw a shot flash just wide, but came good in the 35th minute. The Venezuelan striker curled in a gorgeous cross to a streaking Randall Leal at the far post.
Leal didn’t make the cleanest of contact, but did enough to beat Brad Stuver at the far post to open the scoring. The Costa Rican’s second goal of the season gave Nashville a deserved lead.
Cádiz had another chance to add to the score, muscling Matt Besler off the ball to get in on goal. He opted to take the shot at a tight angle and rattled the post, but had CJ Sapong open across the goal.
In the second half, Nashville again dominated the opening exchanges, but began to fade as the half wore on. Austin found themselves with a great spell of pressure midway through the half, and thought they’d found an equalizer through substitute Jared Stroud. The winger beat Joe Willis at the near post, but VAR intervened to pull the ball back for offside.
As Austin pushed for an equalizer, Nashville found plenty of space on the counter. Dom Badji had a glorious chance to seal up the win after Luke Haakenson played him through on goal, but put his shot straight at Brad Stuver for a relatively easy save.
At the end of the day, though, Nashville were the superior team. They come away with three points to move into fourth place in MLS’s Eastern Conference, one of just three unbeaten sides in the league.
1. Nashville’s press comes to life. Especially in the opening exchanges against Austin, Nashville’s press was the best it’s been in MLS. Their front four constantly put Austin under pressure, and the midfield pairing of Dax McCarty and Aníbal Godoy was there to pick up the pieces. It neutralized the visitors for most of the match, and kept Nashville’s lines high.
2. Nashville are wasteful in front of goal. Despite a bevy of chances created, Nashville still struggles to put the ball in the back of the net. On paper they had 2.34 expected goals, and in person it felt like they should have scored three or four. They’re still a good side, but man… they’d be elite if they scored half as much as they should.
3. Nashville got lucky. It looked like Austin would pull off another draw at Nissan Stadium before VAR intervened, but it felt for a long stretch of the second half that an equalizer was inevitable. Austin had the ball around Nashville’s area for much of the half, and they were the more dangerous team until the final minutes. Nashville can’t afford to give better teams that type of possession and looks at goal. A better side would have punished them.
Shots: Nashville 14 – 12 Austin
Shots on goal: Nashville 6 – 1 Austin
Expected goals: Nashville 2.34 – 0.42 Austin
Goals: Nashville 1 – 0 Austin
Possession: Nashville 41% – 59% Austin
Fouls: Nashville 12 – 15 Austin
Yellow cards: Nashville 0 – 1 Austin
Red cards: Nashville 0 – 0 Austin
Nashville (4-2-3-1): Willis; Johnston, Zimmerman, Romney, Lovitz; McCarty (c), Godoy; Leal (Haakenson 79′), Muyl (Washington 79′); Sapong (Badji 57′), Cádiz (Mukhtar 67′)
Austin (4-3-3): Stuver; Lima, Romaña (Cascanta 34′), Besler, Kolmanić; Pochettino, Pereira (Fagundez 81′), Ring; Redes (Stroud 62′), Hoesen (Gallagher 62′), Dominguez (Manneh 81′)
Nashville travel to fifth placed Atlanta United on Saturday, My 29.