NASHVILLE, TN – Fans of Nashville SC and FC Cincinnati went back and forth all week on whether or not the matchup constituted a rivalry. After Cincinnati got the win, their first against Nashville at the MLS level, striker Sergio Santos kissing the crest in front of the Backline supporters’ section certainly lended the feel of a legitimate rivalry.
Gary Smith named nearly a first choice eleven. Aníbal Godoy made his return from injury, named to the squad for the first time since the season opener.
Randall Leal remained absent with a hamstring injury, but otherwise Nashville were afforded a fully healthy squad.
On the pitch
It was a chippy match, exacerbated by a playing surface that saw players consistently slip, leading to a few hard tackles in the first half. Nashville were able to create a decent few chances in the opening half, with Joe Willis called into action several times to keep Cincinnati off the board.
For a second consecutive contest, though, Nashville were second-best after the break. Brandon Vazquez, a Nashville SC player for all of 30 seconds back in 2019, opened the scoring just three minutes into the second half.
The striker found space in Nashville’s half after both Shaq Moore and Walker Zimmerman stepped up to close down attackers. Alvaro Barreal forced Willis into another save, but the ‘Yotes were slow to react, and Vazquez pounced.
After going behind, Nashville struggled against Cincinnati’s 5-3-2. Smith brought on Teal Bunbury to act as another target in the box, but aside from hitting crosses into the box, Nashville struggled for ideas and couldn’t effectively create much more than hopeful efforts. Nashville only put three of their 17 shots on target, not nearly enough to deserve a result from the match.
The big picture
Things can change quickly, huh?
After going three matches unbeaten to start the season, Nashville have lost back-to-back 1-0 matches, conceding just after halftime in both. They’re clearly an elite defensive side. That shouldn’t be a surprise. But with reigning 2022 MLS MVP and Golden Boot winner Hany Mukhtar yet to score a goal, they don’t have many other ideas.
Jacob Shaffelburg is good for a few goals, and had moments against Cincinnati. But with starting striker C.J. Sapong on a 25-game scoreless streak and no game-changing attackers on the bench, the mood in Nashville feels like it’s quickly swinging from optimism towards the concern that many fans felt heading into the season.
Nashville are back on the road next Saturday against 4th-place Orlando City.