Nashville SC’s league-leading 10 match unbeaten streak came to an end on Wednesday night against CF Montréal. At Stade Saputo, where Montréal are yet to lose in 2023, Nashville were lethargic in the first half and wasteful in the second, losing for the first time since mid-April.
With international duty keeping Fafà Picault and Aníbal Godoy out of the squad, Teal Bunbury and Lukas MacNaughton out injured, and Walker Zimmerman not fully fit, Gary Smith opted for a conservative approach, shifting to a back five.
Without any established attacking options on the bench, Smith was hesitant to switch out of the 5-3-2 formation, and Nashville never quite looked comfortable.
On the pitch
The ‘Yotes were lethargic and uninspired in the first half, allowing Montréal to have their fill of possession and not able to establish any danger in transition. Bryce Duke scored what would prove to be the winner after Sunusi Ibrahim was adjudged not to have handled the ball in the buildup, taking advantage of a poor moment from Jack Maher before Duke’s trailing run and finish caught Joe Willis off guard.
After registering their first shot of the night in first-half stoppage time, Nashville came out of the break much more energetic. Taylor Washington had a pair of golden opportunities to equalize early in the half, heading over an open goal from close range before an under hit pass from Hany Mukhtar allowed a defender to block his shot. Mukhtar and Jacob Shaffelburg each had their own chances, but neither could muster their recent sharpness in front of goal.
The big picture
Winning on the road in MLS is really hard. Winning in Montréal is even harder. The loss isn’t a bad result on its own, but the way in which Nashville dropped points was a disappointment. They were punished for their one major defensive lapse, and while they created more than enough chances to take a point, their finishing let them down.
They’ve played the home-heavy part of their season already. Now they’ll have to do it on the road, heading straight to Columbus to prepare for Saturday’s match against the Crew. And while their attack has been impressive recently, injuries and the international break have emphasized their need for additions in the summer. It’s not doom and gloom by any means, but the season is about to get a whole lot harder for the second-placed team in MLS.
Cincinnati won yet again on Wednesday, extending their unbeaten streak to 10 matches and their lead on the Supporters’ Shield to eight points. While the race for the Shield certainly isn’t over, Cincinnati’s grip is tightening. Nashville should still end up towards the top of the table, but they can’t afford many more performances like Wednesday night.