Recap: Nashville wasteful and sloppy in 3-1 loss to Miami

Nashville SC came out on the front foot against Inter Miami CF in Fort Lauderdale, but self-inflicted mistakes proved costly as the Herons won 3-1.

The XI

Gary Smith stuck with the back three he’s used in recent weeks. Dan Lovitz again played in a more central role, with Josh Bauer still preferred ahead of Jack Maher. Elliot Panicco got his third-consecutive start, while Randall Leal would make his season debut off the bench after missing the first 11 matches with injury.

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On the pitch

Nashville’s game plan was reminiscent of their plan in the Leagues Cup. They pressed high out of the gate and made Miami uncomfortable in the opening 20 minutes. It paid off; they scored after just two minutes via an own goal from Franco Negri. They nearly doubled the lead minutes later when Josh Bauer’s shot bounced down off the bar and out off the goal line.

The misses proved costly, and the ensuing defensive mistakes hurt even more. In the 11th minute, Bauer tried to step high to challenge Lionel Messi and missed, letting the goat get free in the box. Panicco did well to block the initial save and Aníbal Godoy nearly cleared the follow up, but Luis Suárez’s scuffed shot reached Messi wide open on the edge of the six-yard box for an easy finish.

Just six minutes later, Nashville had a golden chance to take the lead again, when Bauer found Hany Mukhtar wide open in space. But the 2022 MVP opted not to take the near-angle shot himself and his square pass to Sam Surridge was woefully underhit, allowing Tómas Aviles to deflect the cross and then clear the shot.

Despite a handful of chances from Mukhtar during the rest of the match, the mistakes for Nashville piled up. Elliot Panicco was shocking in possession, giving up a corner kick from a routine back-pass on the edge of his box. Minutes later, he nearly gave up a goal from an un-pressured attempt to pass the ball out from his back, forcing Lukas MacNaughton into a goal-line clearance. Sergio Busquets scored from the ensuing corner.

In the 80th minute, another mistake put the game out of reach. Substitute Leo Afonso took a touch away from goal in the top corner of the penalty area, but instead of waiting and re-setting, Bauer dove in and clearly fouled the 22-year-old, giving Messi a second goal from the penalty spot.

The big picture

Stepping back, there are plenty of positives for Nashville. Mukhtar was heavily involved; his 60 touches were the most yet this season, as were his nine touches in the box. His three shots were his second-most yet. He and Surridge still haven’t figured out their connection, but the chances were their.

Nashville’s intensity and game-plan were much improved. Even on the road against the Supporters’ Shield leaders, they didn’t approach the match like a team in 14th place. They were intense from the opening whistle, finally pressed like Gary Smith promised in preseason, and took Miami by surprise.

But the defensive mistakes were the same as they’ve made all season long. Without Walker Zimmerman organizing the backline, they’ve been so prone to unforced errors. None was more at fault than Elliot Panicco, who was taken off at halftime in Gary Smith’s first-ever halftime goalkeeper change after a downright shocking performance with the ball at his feet.

And to make matters worse, Lukas MacNaughton was stretchered off in the second half after his left boot got stuck in the tuft and rolled nastily underneath him. Smith said after the match that it didn’t appear to be broken, but x-rays in Nashville will confirm more. It certainly looks set to be an extended absence for MacNaughton, who has become the clear second-choice center back and was about to be partnered by a finally-healthy Zimmerman.

Nashville take on Wooden Spoon leaders San Jose at Geodis Park next week. It’s as close to a must-win match as they’ve ever had this early in a season.

Post-match quotes


Possession: MIA 52% – 48% NSH
Passes completed: MIA 336 – 393 NSH
Shots: MIA 10 – 13 NSH
Shots on goal: MIA 7 – 5 NSH
Penalty kicks: MIA 1 – 0 NSH
Expected goals: MIA 1.87 – 2.49 NSH
Goals: MIA 3 – 1 NSH
Fouls: MIA 14 – 12 NSH
Yellow cards: MIA 2 – 1 NSH
Red cards: MIA 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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