Recap: Nashville SC stun FC Cincinnati on the road

Nashville SC got their first win of the post-Gary Smith era, beating FC Cincinnati 2-0 at TQL Stadium on Wednesday night. Cincinnati entered the match on a seven-match winning streak, ended by interim head coach Rumba Munthali’s first win in charge.

The XI

Munthali made several changes to his lineup on Wednesday. Dru Yearwood and Brian Anunga were paird in midfield, with Tyler Boyd on the bench and Sean Davis missing the squad entirely.

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Most notable were Munthali’s decisions at striker: Teal Bunbury played the full 90 minutes with Designated Player Sam Surridge an unused substitute, and Forster Ajago was called up to the squad for the first time in MLS.

The 22-year-old forward was an undrafted signing following the 2024 SuperDraft, and after scoring a brace against Moca FC in Concacaf Champions Cup play had spent the season on loan with Huntsville City FC. Nashville used their only open international slot to activate the Ghana native, which they acquired in April for $350,000 in General Allocation Money. If Nashville wish to sign an international player in the summer transfer window, they’ll need to acquire another.

On the pitch

Nashville looked like Nashville again. They had made marginal improvements under Munthali in the last two matches, but hadn’t been able to put together a complete 90 minute performance on both ends of the pitch. On the road against one of the best teams in the league, they had their best showing in months.

Jack Maher opened the scoring in the 25th minute from a corner kick. Walker Zimmerman drew a pair of Cincinnati defenders towards him, leaving Maher in space behind. Maher’s diving header was somewhat unconventional, deflecting off of DeAndre Yedlin’s arm and in to give Nashville the lead and Maher his first goal since September 20, 2023.

Four minutes later, Jacob Shaffelburg doubled the lead with his fourth goal of the year. Dru Yearwood won a trigger high in midfield, triggering a quick break from Hany Mukhtar. The 2022 MVP held the ball until four defenders collapsed on him, leaving Shaffelburg wide open for a snapped finish to the near post.

Understandably the field tilted Cincinnati’s way in the second half, outshooting Nashville 14 to four. Joe Willis had one of his better matches in recent memory, making six saves to preserve a clean sheet and end Cincinnati’s seven-match win streak.

The big picture

Vibes have been low in Nashville, understandably so. However, they’ve quietly put together a four-match unbeaten streak, losing just one of their last seven matches. Since Walker Zimmerman’s return from injury, Nashville have been among the best defenses in MLS, tied with Los Angeles FC for the fewest goals allowed since late April.

The attacking structure from the Coyotes was better, too. Teal Bunbury gave a different look from Sam Surridge, and while his quality on the ball left a bit to be desired, his willingness to stay high and pull the center backs away from Mukhtar created huge pockets of space underneath for Nashville’s No. 10 to operate in.

It’s still early, and Nashville still have issues and flaws to work through. But they’re back in the playoff spots for the first time since mid-March. A home date against a New England Revolution team on track for one of the all-time worst seasons in league history looks even more appealing now.

Post-match quotes

Stats

Possession: CIN 59% – 41% NSH
Passes completed: CIN 455 – 291 NSH
Shots: CIN 21 – 11 NSH
Shots on goal: CIN 6 – 3 NSH
Penalty kicks: CIN 0 – 0 NSH
Expected goals: CIN 1.86 – 0.97 NSH
Goals: CIN 0 – 2 NSH
Fouls: CIN 9 – 8 NSH
Yellow cards: CIN 0 – 0 NSH
Red cards: CIN 0 – 0 NSH

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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