Nashville score early and often in record-setting win

Nashville scored early and often on Friday night against Chicago Fire. Hany Mukhtar scored the first hat trick in club history and the earliest in league history as the Boys In Gold ran rampant at Nissan Stadium.

Formation

Head coach Gary Smith continued with the 3-4-2-1 system he’s deployed in Walker Zimmerman’s absence, with Dylan Nealis getting his first Nashville start at right wingback. Surprisingly, Aké Loba couldn’t find his way into the match day squad after his first full week of training following his $6.8 million move from C.F. Monterrey.

Run of play

As electric as Nashville were in attack, Chicago were worse in defense. Johan Kappelhof in particular had a horrific showing, giving the ball away to give Nashville their first goal in the 10th minute before being sent off four minutes later. Hany Mukhtar was the beneficiary, scoring in the 10th, 13th and 16th minutes. His three goals were the first hat trick for Nashville Sc in their professional history. His hat trick was also the fastest from kickoff in MLS history, and the six minutes from start to finish were the second-fastest in league history.

Nashville continued pouring it on, hitting the woodwork three times in addition to goals from CJ Sapong and a first-ever MLS goal from Brian Anunga. A sloppy moment in defense allowed Chicago to pull one back just two minutes after halftime, but their goal was an asterisk on an otherwise complete night from the homeside.

Nashville’s five goals scored are the most in their MLS history, and tied their record as a professional club, a 5-2 win over Swope Park Rangers on May 11, 2019 in the USL Championship.

Big picture

Nashville have been fairly unlucky-slash-disappointing in front of goal this season, underperforming their expected goals by roughly four heading into the match. They were anything but disappointing in front of goal against Chicago, finishing opportunistically to take advantage of a fairly unremarkable xG tally. Nashville have been due a couple goals, and their chance creation remains elite in MLS. They finally had a performance where the finishing matched. And their club record signing hasn’t stepped on the pitch yet.

Up next

With the win, Nashville move into fourth place in the East. They’re tied with both Orlando and Montréal ahead of them on points, but behind on tiebreakers. They’ll travel to Columbus Crew on Wednesday, who find themselves in sixth place following an impressive 2-1 road win over NYCFC. Nashville lost in Columbus twice last season, including in extra time in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

With the large majority of their remaining season to be played on the road, they’ll need to start picking up away points soon. Wednesday will be a huge test.

Lineups

Nashville (3-4-2-1): Willis; Maher, Anibaba, Romney; Nealis, McCarty © (LaGrassa 65′), Anunga (Haakenson 74′), Lovitz; Leal (Danladi 74′), Mukhtar (Muyl 65′); Sapong (Cádiz 67′)

Chicago (3-4-2-1): Shuttleworth; Kappelhof, Pineda, Omsberg; Sekulić, Medrán (Stojanović 79′), Herbers (Gimenez 46′), Navarro (Bornstein 79′); Frankowski, Aliseda (Espinoza 82′); Berić (Offor 46′)

Stats

Possession: NSH 55% – 45% CHI
Shots: NSH 25 – 14 – CHI
Shots on goal: NSH 12 – 4 CHI
Expected goals: NSH 2.74 – 2.18 CHI
Goals: NSH 5 – 1 CHI
Passes: NSH 424 – 326 CHI
Fouls: NSH 14 – 9 CHI
Yellow cards: NSH 0 – 2 CHI
Red cards: NSH 0 – 1 CHI

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