Nashville SC were beaten for just the second time in 2021 on Sunday night. The Boys In Gold fell 2-1 to Inter Miami CF, courtesy of a 95th minute winner from substitute Indiana Vassilev. It was the first time in five meetings between the 2020 expansion sides that Miami have been victorious.
Head coach Gary Smith named the closest thing to a “first choice” eleven in over a month. Aníbal Godoy and Dan Lovitz made their returns to the starting lineup after extended periods out, while the in-form front three of CJ Sapong, Hany Mukhtar and Randall Leal got the nod up top.
Run of play
It was a rare sight for Nashville fans, but the Boys In Gold rarely, if ever, truly looked up for this one. The first half was a tepid affair. Miami perhaps had a slight edge in the opening 45 minutes, but Nashville weren’t able to create chances and a draw seemed in the cards.
Immediately after the break showed the best of the evening from Nashville. A quick counter attack resulted in a corner kick, which Mukhtar delivered into the box. CJ Sapong generated a tremendous amount of power from his header to put the ball in off the crossbar and give Nashville the lead.
After the goal, Nashville retreated further and further back, allowing Miami more and more possession. Really sloppy tracking in midfield allowed Blaise Matuidi time and space on the ball, and the World Cup-winning midfielder found Gonzalo Higuaín free in the box, where he shrugged off an attempted challenge from Alex Muyl before burying the ball in the top corner.
Nashville had a golden chance to win the match in the 88th minute. Hany Mukhtar and Aké Loba countered against just two Miami defenders, and Loba eventually picked out a wide open Jhonder Cádiz in front of goal. The Designated Player striker had the entire goal gaping, with ‘keeper Nick Marsman wildly out of position. Instead, the Venezuelan international put his header wide, completely missing the goal.
The miss cost Nashville three points, as Miami found a winner through Indiana Vassilev in the 95th minute.
It’s always hard not to overreact to results like this in the spur of the moment, but there’s no way to spin this in Nashville’s favor. Their entire week of away matches was geared to field the best possible side against the worst side in MLS going into the match. With nearly a full compliment of first-choice players, Nashville were tepid, predictable, and rarely dangerous. Instead, they allowed Miami time and space in midfield to carve them apart in the second half, and were uncharacteristically slow to close down their top-end players.
Nashville had an opportunity to earn three points away from home for the first time this season. The late miss from Jhonder Cádiz was in many ways symbolic of their missed opportunities away from home.
Nashville went into Sunday night poised to take five points from three away matches, a solid if unspectacular haul. Their week was orchestrated to put the best possible team on the field in what should have been a very winnable match in Miami. Instead, they head home with just two points from a possible nine. It’s even worse realizing that two of their three matches came against Toronto and Miami, both among the bottom three in the Eastern Conference.
Nashville have been largely impressive at Nissan Stadium. They’ve been toothless on the road. They’ve scored four goals and earned five points in seven matches on the road. However you spin things, and in spite of their home form, the results on the road are simply not good enough for a side with playoff aspirations.
Nashville return to Nissan Stadium for a pair of home matches against DC United and Orlando City. They’ll get a 10 day break before heading back on the road.
Inter Miami (4-2-3-1): Marsman; Leerdam (Vassilev 55′), Figal, González-Pirez; Gibbs (Shea 55′); Gregore, Makoun (Shawcross 89′); Morgan, Matuidi (Ulloa 90′), Pizzaro (F. Higuaín 65′); G. Higuaín
Nashville (3-4-3): Willis; Maher (Muyl 46′), Anibaba, Romney; Miller (LaGrassa 89′), Godoy (Anunga 61′), McCarty, Lovitz; Leal (Cádiz 74′), Sapong (Loba 61′), Mukhtar
Possession: MIA 59% – 41% NSH
Shots: MIA 15 – 8 NSH
Shots on goal: MIA 9 – 2 NSH
Expected goals: MIA 1.36 – 0.64 NSH
Goals: MIA 2 – 1 NSH
Passes: MIA 522 – 333 NSH
Fouls: MIA 7 – 13 NSH
Yellow cards: MIA 0 – 1 NSH
Red cards: MIA 0 – 0 NSH