NASHVILLE, TN – Nashville couldn’t hold onto a one-goal lead after an electric first half against Los Angeles FC on Saturday night, drawing 1-1 with the reigning MLS Cup champions at Geodis Park.
With Sean Davis unavailable due to an issue picked up in training, head coach Gary Smith gave Dax McCarty the start. It was McCarty’s 400th regular season start in MLS, making him the third player in league history to reach that milestone.
On the pitch
Nashville started the match strongly, dominating possession in the opening 20 minutes and creating numerous half chances. Just as momentum began to swing LAFC’s way, Hany Mukhtar pounced on a loose ball in the box to bury his third goal of the season.
After taking a lead, Nashville continued to press forward, a somewhat unusual tactic for a side that has too often sat back on a lead. Despite a few dangerous looks at goal, though, they couldn’t double their advantage.
After the break, LAFC found a foothold. Walker Zimmerman was withdrawn after 55 minutes due to groin tightness, and the Black & Gold equalized just three minutes later. Denis Bouanga, the early MVP frontrunner, took advantage of a poor turnover in midfield to drive at goal and score his 12th goal in all competitions this season.
LAFC continued to push for goal, testing a makeshift backline featuring Dan Lovitz as a center back and MLS debutant Josh Bauer. Nashville’s defense held strong, though, while Mukhtar and company tried to find a crack in LAFC’s elite defense. A third goal wasn’t in the cards, though, forcing the sides to be happy with a point apiece.
The big picture
While conceding a second-half equalizer will disappoint fans and players alike, a point against LAFC certainly isn’t a bad result by any stretch of the imagination. Hany Mukhtar is quietly off to his best start yet in MLS, and the team looked much more cohesive and aggressive in this match.
Walker Zimmerman’s injury is a concern to an already thin backline, although they could add another defender before Monday’s transfer deadline. With a U.S. Open Cup match against USL Championship winners San Antonio FC on Wednesday, Gary Smith has a chance to rotate his squad, both resting tired bodies and giving other players a chance to earn a bigger role.