After a seven match road trip to start the season, Huntsville City FC finally played at home. Nashville SC’s MLS NEXT Pro team christened Wicks Family Field at Joe Davis Stadium with a win over rivals Crown Legacy FC, grabbing the victory late through an Azaad Liadi winner.
Head coach Jack Collison named an unsurprising eleven, for the most part. Kemy Amiche and Jonathan Bolaños maintained their regular starting spots on the wings, with Nashville third-string ‘keeper Ben Martino between the pipes.
Nashville’s Randall Leal was the surprise name in the lineup. The Nashville attacker continued his long journey back from injury with a start for Huntsville, going 64 minutes in a bid to regain match fitness. His appearance all but confirms his absence for Nashville’s MLS match against Charlotte FC tomorrow, but should have him available for their US Open Cup trip to Miami on Tuesday.
On the pitch
Like in Geodis Park’s debut in 2022, the visitors were the first to score at Joe Davis Stadium. Jacob Williams found the breakthrough for Crown Legacy within the opening five minutes, playing a crisp give-and-go on the edge of the box and finishing smartly for his first strike of the season.
Towards the end of the half, Huntsville equalized. Randall Leal dragged a ball back toward the top of the box, eventually finding Jony Bolaños. The winger got his second goal of the year, hitting a powerful shot into the bottom corner to give the hosts the momentum heading into the break.
After coming close to a winner several times, Huntsville eventually found one through Azaad Liadi. Substitute Ollie Wright played a spectacular ball over the top, finding Liadi onside and streaking into space. The striker made no mistake with the finish, calmly slotting the ball into the net to give his side their first win of the season.
The big picture
Finally getting a win is obviously huge for Huntsville, who can finally put their arduous road trip behind them. They’re in 11th place in the Eastern Conference table with nine points from their first eight matches.
Most important, though, was the support at Joe Davis Stadium. The game was a sellout, with 5,605 in attendance and a vibrant, boisterous atmosphere. With over 3,000 season tickets sold, Nashville and Hunstville are creating a new model for MLS NEXT Pro sides.
Instead of putting their reserve team in market, where there would be no mass appeal or real commercial interest, having the team in Huntsville allows it to have a unique identity, culture, and real local support. It’s a model that plenty of teams around the league are watching, and one that could become much more common before too long.
Gallery: Huntsville City’s first-ever three points
Photos courtesy Huntsville City FC