Nashville SC continued their push for a home playoff spot with a 1-1 draw on the road against Austin FC. MVP candidates Hany Mukhtar and Sebastián Driussi traded goals, with the two sides sharing the points at Q2 Stadium.
Head coach Gary Smith rolled out the strongest lineup he had, given the circumstances. Walker Zimmerman missed out after his red card against LA Galaxy, giving Jack Maher a chance to start in defense.
Dax McCarty and Sean Davis partnered in midfield, while Aníbal Godoy missed his 15th match of the year with year another thigh issue.
On the pitch
Despite the absence of Zimmerman, Nashville put in one of the defensive performances of the season. The ‘Yotes limited Austin to just a single shot in the first half.
Early in the second half, Nashville got a goal through the usual method: a Hany Mukhtar moment of brilliance.
Dan Lovitz cleared a set piece off the line. Jacob Shaffelburg got onto the rebound, launching a ball into midfield for Mukhtar to run onto, and the MVP frontrunner baited Jon Gallagher into a foul, earning a penalty kick. Mukhtar dispatched it for his league-leading 23rd goal of the season.
Just minutes later, Austin equalized through their MVP candidate. Sebastián Driussi got onto the end of a corner kick, finishing emphatically into the roof of the net to bring the score level.
Despite a flurry of chances on both sides, including a marked Nashville push for a winner, neither side could break the deadlock.
The big picture
Real Salt Lake and Minnesota United keep doing Nashville favors, losing to FC Cincinnati and Sporting KC, respectively. The ‘Yotes are now two points clear in fourth place, with the rest of the pack havign used up their games in hand. A home playoff match is well within reach.
Next up, a Leagues’ Cup showcase match against Club Ameríca on Wednesday, before a much-needed international break.