Recap: Nashville fall flat against Houston

Nashville SC lost their first match at Geodis Park since August 14, falling 2-1 to a poor Houston Dynamo side.

The ‘Yotes would have moved into third place in the Western Conference with a win, but end the night in fifth place and looking down the barrel of a road trip to start their Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs campaign.

The XI

No lineup surprises for Nashville. Aside from the injured Aníbal Godoy and Alex Muyl, head coach Gary Smith had a full squad to choose from and named arguably his strongest team.

On the pitch

Nashville were as bad on the field as they’ve been in 2022, but it could have been a different story. Midway through the first half, Hany Mukhtar nearly caught goalkeeper Steve Clark off his line, but his chipped effort bounced off the bar and out.

The play was then brought back after video review, with Walker Zimmerman adjudged to have fouled Corey Baird in the box. Sebastián Ferreira converted from the spot, and then nine minutes later took advantage of a painfully under-hit pass from Dave Romney to make it two.

For the rest of the match, Nashville struggled to generate anything meaningful. The ‘Yotes crossed an astounding 32 times, with little to no end product. Walker Zimmerman pulled a goal back deep into stoppage time, but it was too little, far too late for the Boys In Gold, who end their six match unbeaten streak in underwhelming fashion.

The big picture

Once again, Nashville struggled to find their rhythm after an international break. The team looked disjointed after their week off, with a rare mistake from Dave Romney proving costly in the first half.

Hany Mukhtar had a quiet night, and certainly can’t be blamed for not scoring or assisting for the first time in eight matches. But it illustrates two glaring problems that have been evident for some time.

First, Nashville desperately, painfully need consistent attacking production from anyone besides Mukhtar. They’ve gotten it in spurts from Randall Leal, C.J. Sapong, and Jacob Shaffelburg at times this season. But those times have been too short, too inconsistent, and in some cases, far too long ago. Nashville need to hit the winter transfer window hard and give Mukhtar complementary and supporting pieces. When he’s quiet, the team is quiet. That’s hard to sustain.

And second, Nashville must find a way to generate chances against a packed defense other than crossing the ball. They crossed 32 times from open play against Houston. There were no other ideas. The midfield insisted on laboriously rotating the ball to the wide players, who consistently took their time to hit a cross and allowed Houston to set their defense. Nashville need more.

It was a reversion to Nashville’s worst form, a reminder that this team is painfully human without a superhuman Hany Mukhtar, and a reality check heading into a Decision Day matchup with LAFC and likely a road trip to start their playoff campaign.

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.

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