Nashville SC lose to FC Cincinnati for first time in MLS

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.

The XI

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.

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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.

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


  1. I believe that it’s time for all of us to move past the illusion that all is well with the club and it’s ‘plan’, and to start living in reality about our lack of progress from our initial 2 years in the league. If losing the match (and the eyeball test) to Cincinnati, a club that recently finished in last place in the league for 3 consecutive years, doesn’t focus the mind towards objectivity, then I’m not sure what will.

    The upcoming schedule in April will feature matches against Orlando, NYCFC, LAFC, and Atlanta, and is a daunting challenge for a club that has allowed a total of just 2 goals in 5 matches, but has found a way to lose 2 of those matches. That July transfer window, with it’s promise of potential help, is going to seem like a hopelessly long time in the future if the club cannot find enough goals to remain competitive and bank an adequate number of points in the interim.

    There is a great risk of a continued dampening of the (primarily) casual fans enthusiasm while employing this moneyball (?) strategy, and it is a tremendous risk with 30k seats to fill and the reality of the difficulty in re-attracting casual fans once they drift away.

    I, personally, feel as if Smith and Jacobs have dug holes for themselves–and all of us–that they are probably incapable of climbing out of, and the club, in general, is only currently showing actual competency in merchandising and adding celebrity owners. They are absolutely squandering an incredible moment in time when the club has an MVP and 2 of the leagues best 11, and failing to add talent and capitalize on this rare opportunity.

    I will continue to support my club, wear my club gear daily, and write the checks for my 8 season tickets, and strive to persevere through this period of frustrating mediocrity that’s seemingly taking hold at our club. I ask everyone to do similarly while attempting to constructively move the direction of the club to a better place.

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