Nashville SC cruised to a win over FC Cincinnati on the back of a two-goal performance from CJ Sapong. Past matchups between the two clubs had been tense affairs, with neither side able to win outside of a penalty shootout, but Saturday night’s meeting was as one-sided as they come. Nashville move into second place in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference, while the loss drops Cincinnati into 12th.
Head coach Gary Smith continued with the 3-4-2-1 system that’s accompanied Nashville’s recent form, with Eric Miller getting a second consecutive start, this time on the right side of the backline.
Run of play
Nashville never dominated the ball in this one. They didn’t need to. Cincinnati controlled the bulk of possession but were toothless in attack. In the other end of the field, Hany Mukhtar, Randall Leal and CJ Sapong were absolutely lethal. The trio had a hand in each goal, and carved out opportunity after opportunity for the home side.
Hany Mukhtar found CJ Sapong for the opener. CJ Sapong found Randall Leal for the second. And Mukhtar found Sapong again for the third. It was a clinical and class performance from Nashville, who never looked troubled, and never had trouble finding solid looks on goal.
After a scoreless draw on the road against an excellent Columbus side, Nashville were always the favorites against a Cincinnati side that has never looked comfortable at the MLS level. Still, they handled their business professionally, avoiding the slow starts that have plagued them at Nissan Stadium. With such a difficult stretch of road matches to close out the year, taking advantage of their home matches is vital, and they did just that against arguably their biggest rival.
Nashville have a full week off before traveling north to Toronto. The Reds find themselves in 11th place in the East, and are currently in a rough vein of form, firing manager Chris Armas just months into his tenure.
Nashville (3-4-2-1): Willis; Miller, Anibaba, Romney; Nealis (LaGrassa 46′), McCarty © (Haakenson 90′), Anunga (Muyl 82′), Washington; Leal, Mukhtar (Danladi 90′); Sapong (Loba 68′)
Cincinnati (4-3-3): Vermeer; Gyau, Cameron, Vallecilla (Hagglund 46′), Castillo (Ordonez 74′); Stanko (Vazquez 63′), Medunjanin (Mokotjo 69′), Kubo; Barreal (Atanga 46′), Brenner, Acosta
Possession: NSH 34% – 66% CIN
Shots: NSH 8 – 7 CIN
Shots on goal: NSH 4 – 0 CIN
Expected goals: NSH 0.99 – 0.34 CIN
Goals: NSH 3 – 0 CIN
Passes: NSH 255 – 585 CIN
Fouls: NSH 14 – 15 CIN
Yellow cards: NSH 2 – 2 CIN
Red cards: NSH 0 – 0 CIN