A perfect summer evening in Nashville got off to a perfect start for Nashville SC, who scored in the second minute and rode that goal to a 1-0 victory against Philadelphia Union.
So I’ll be straight forward with you right from the jump. This isn’t going to be a normal recap. I (Davey) took in tonight’s game from the seat that I pay for, as opposed to the box. With our main man Ben Wright returning from vacation, it was on me to cover the game from there. So I’ll give you things from my vantage point, and we’ll obviously fill in this week with breakdowns and podcasts. So let’s get after it.
Nashville SC currently sit 4th in the Eastern Conference. They’ve played two matches against teams above them in the table, and in in those matches they have secured 6/6 points. In their other nine games, they have a record of 2-6-1. I made the case midweek on The Nashville Soccer show that this team is currently playing up and down depending on the opponent. That argument got a bit more weight just a few days later with this result.
In the context of where this Nashville team is RIGHT NOW, Saturday was a massive result. NSC secured 7/9 points on their recent home stand, where anything less simply would not have been good enough. We’ve been saying all year “when you drop points against teams below you on the table you have to pick them up elsewhere” and tonight NSC did just that. This was a massive win for the club.
I think there are a few things worthy of note here. Muyl was on the bench for the first time in recent memory, and we say Jack Maher get a start alongside of both Romney and Zimmerman (more on that later). Additionally, Anunga grabbed a starting spot next to McCarty in place of Godoy who played midweek with Panama. Starting with Anunga, despite Gary saying there were “fine lines” between he and LaGrassa for the midfield role, Anunga has grabbed all of the spare minutes since returning from injury. Maher grabbed his minutes along a back three that was a part of a formation change for the evening.
This could be opponent based, but my gut is there is more to the picture than that. With Johnston, Zimmerman and Godoy all due to miss time, I think we’re seeing Gary tinker with what he thinks may see the team through a spell without three of his most trusted XI.
As discussed Nashville lined up with a back three that triggerd something like a 3-5-2 or at times a 3-4-3. Zimmerman, Romney and Maher anchored the back line, with Zimmerman having the ability to step into midfield in attack which we saw a few times. Lovitz and Johnston were on the flanks, but also did narrow out a bit a times centrally around McCarty and Godoy. Up top Sapong, Leal and Cádiz had a bit of rotation. We saw Mukhtar further up (where I’ve long said he looks more comfortable) and Leal in a more central position than we’ve seen him of late.
From my seat in 137 (admittedly lower and a bit harder to make out formations than in the box) the formation just seemed to suit the group so well. They were clearly buzzing from the start, and we saw both Mukhtar and McCarty have one of their better games in recent memory. For this team to be who a lot of us think they can be, those two HAVE to be good.
Run of play
Not a ton to say here. Nashville were the better team. The goal went in early, but there were near misses from Sapong on a set piece in the first half and second half that were near goals, as well as what was undoubtedly a hand ball on Bedoya to close out the first half. The score line will show 1-0 with possession and shots on goal close to dead even. But make no mistake, Nashville was far and away the better team on this night.
Nashville will soon face two of those teams below them in the table again. On paper this seems like the opportunity where we all sit and say “Ok, 6/6 needed for this team to get where it wants to go”. But through eleven games those “need to take care of business” games haven’t resulted in much taking care of business. I think tonight was a great result against a really good team in MLS. But as we’ve said so often, in a season where the margin for error is now so small, you’ve gotta back it up with similar results in the next two.