Nashville SC seemed to have a crucial three points at home in the bag against Orlando City at Nissan Stadium on Wednesday night. The Boys In Gold held a two goal lead late in the second half, but conceded twice in the last 15 minutes for yet another 2-2 draw at home.
After rotating his squad against Chicago on Sunday, head coach Gary Smith was able to field his strongest team against Orlando.
CJ Sapong, Hany Mukhtar and Aníbal Godoy all returned to the lineup, with the back five playing their fourth consecutive match together.
Run of play
Orlando dominated the ball, but Nashville largely didn’t need it. Mukhtar, Sapong and Randall Leal consistently found space on the break, and looked the more threatening side for the bulk of the match. Hany Mukhtar opened the scoring in the 11th minute, burying his own rebound after Pedro Gallese saved his initial penalty. After a spell of Orlando pressure to start the second half, Randall Leal doubled the lead with an excellent run and strike.
After going up 2-0, a third goal would have sealed the win for Nashville. Mukhtar came inches away from turning a cross into the net, while Leal grazed the side netting with a rocket of a strike.
At the other end, though, Daryl Dike went down in the box from Jack Maher and confidently dispatched the resulting penalty. The draw seemed almost inevitable after that, with Orlando mounting wave after wave of attack. Eventually the pressure paid off, as Brian Anunga deflected a corner kick into his own net in the 93rd minute.
On one hand, Nashville still have lost just three matches at home all season and have a six point lead over DC United. They’re comfortably in second place, and are still one of the best sides around the league.
On the other hand, they’ve conceded 10 goals from set pieces this season, and for all their strengths they too often lack the killer instinct to put a game beyond doubt. Games like this need to be put away ruthlessly, and Nashville haven’t done that consistently enough.
They’ll have to get over it quickly with a difficult trip to face New York City FC on Sunday. After Wednesday night’s result, Sunday has turned into a must-not-lose scenario for the Boys In Gold.