NASHVILLE, TN – In their first test against international opposition, Nashville SC took home a dramatic victory. The Coyotes took home the win against Liga MX giants Club América, capping off a 3-3 thriller with a penalty shootout win.
Nashville head coach Gary Smith heavily rotated his side. MLS MVP frontrunner Hany Mukhtar wasn’t even included in the squad, with Dax McCarty, C.J. Sapong, Alex Muyl, Shaq Moore and Joe Willis also getting a night off.
Center back Josh Bauer got his first appearance in a Nashville shirt, temporarily back from his loan to USL Championship’s Sacramento Republic.
On the pitch
Bauer capped off his Nashville debut with an early goal. Teal Bunbury missed a pair of close range chances within the first minutes of the match. His second effort was saved for a corner, which Bauer thumped home authoritatively to make it two. Minutes later, Jacob Shaffelburg capped off a stellar first half with an assist to Luke Haakenson, doubling Nashville’s lead.
Jürgen Damm, fresh off a disappointing spell with Atlanta United, pulled one back for the visitors with a well-timed run and world-class volley to find the net past a statuesque Eliot Panicco.
Aké Loba, starting just his fifth match in all competitions for Nashville, thought he had immediately regained the two goal lead. However, his headed goal was called back for offside, a disappointment on an otherwise impressive night for the frustrated DP.
The momentum shifted after halftime, aided by the five substitutions Nashville made at the break. Just five minutes into the half, Mexican international Miguel Layún collected the ball just outside the box and unleashed an unstoppable effort into the top corner to level the score.
Despite a caché of chances at either end, it wasn’t until late in the match that more goals came. In the 89th minute, Nashville defender Jack Maher thought he had snatched a last-minute winner, slotting home a rebound after Ethan Zubak’s header was saved.
The visitors leveled at the death, though. Five minutes into stoppage time, Layún once again shot from outside the box. This time Panicco got to it, but spilled the rebound, allowing Roger Martínez to equalize.
In penalty kicks, Nashville dominated. Randall Leal saw his effort tipped onto the bar, but Panicco kept momentum with the hosts, answering his miss with a strong save. Ethan Zubak, Jack Maher and Luke Haakenson all calmly dispatched their attempts before Brian Anunga went right down the middle to win the match for Nashville.
The big picture
The match ultimately didn’t mean anything, but in front of a vibrant crowd, Nashville and Club América put on a show worthy of the atmosphere. The two sides played an open, attacking and entertaining match, and the late dramatics certainly didn’t disappoint.
Nashville made it through the match without injury to any of their first-team players, but Handwalla Bwana was stretchered off after pulling up with a non-contact injury to his right leg. The 23-year-old winger has struggled for consistent time in Music City, but had started to find more minutes after joining Memphis 901 FC on loan.
Ultimately, it was a confidence boost for the ‘Yotes, especially with a strong showing from the penalty spot. They’ll have time to rest before their MLS season resumes against Houston Dynamo on October 2.