Recap: Nashville roll past Moca at home, set up Round of 16 matchup against Miami

NASHVILLE, TN – Nashville SC looked every bit the heavy favorites on Wednesday night at Geodis Park, cruising past Moca FC 4-0 in the second leg of their Concacaf Champions Cup Round One tie. The 7-0 aggregate win was the largest margin of victory in any of the tournaments Round One series, and sets up a Round of 16 matchup against Inter Miami CF and Lionel Messi next week.

The XI

Head coach Gary Smith threw out a wildcard from the start, giving 22-year-old striker Forster Ajago his Nashville debut.

Shop MLS Jerseys at MLSStore.com

Center back Brent Kallman also made his debut in gold, while Walker Zimmerman and Dan Lovitz made their first starts of the 2024 season.

On the pitch

Nashville picked up right where they left off in the first leg. McKinze Gaines opened the scoring after 13 minutes, smashing home a cross from Alex Muyl. Forster Ajago became the 10th Nashville player to score on his debut, finding himself in space on the end of a perfect cross from Jacob Shaffelburg and slotting home calmly.

Just before the break, Jacob Shaffelburg made it three. His shot took a wicked deflection off a Moca player, trickling past a stranded Pascual Ramírez on its way in.

In the second half, Nashville continued to pour it on. Ajago struck the bar twice, eventually getting a second after a spilled shot from Amar Sejdić landed in his path. The young striker had a chance to make it a debut hat-trick when Gaines was tackled in the box, but saw his effort saved by Ramírez to give the visiting fans a rare bright spot in an otherwise one-sided match.

The big picture

Ajago’s breakout was encouraging for a Nashville side that lack goalscoring options behind Sam Surridge, who is currently injured. It would have been more encouraging if Ajago was eligible to play in MLS. As it stands, he counts as an international player, and without any international roster spots left open, he can only play in Concacaf Champions Cup until either Nashville obtain an international slot or he receives a green card.

Still, it was a fantastic debut. Signed to a contract immediately following the 2024 SuperDraft, the former Duke University standout was a relative unknown heading into the season, but made his mark against Moca.

Overall, Nashville were incredibly positive throughout the tie, and their 3-0 win in the away leg afforded Smith the opportunity to rotate his squad. Getting Walker Zimmerman and Dan Lovitz 62 competitive minutes each is another step in their return to full fitness, while strong showings from McKenzie Gaines, Brian Anunga and Amar Sejdić show the improved depth in key areas to the squad.

Up next

Nashville travel to Denver this weekend to take on Colorado Rapids in MLS (Saturday, March 2 | 8:30 pm CT). They’ll then return to Music City, where they will take on Inter Miami in the first leg of their Round of 16 matchup. Tickets will go on sale to the general public at 1 pm CT on Friday, March 1.

Post-match quotes

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. Mastodon

Leave a Reply