Recap: Nashville SC implode in horror first half at Portland

A shocking 11 minutes from Nashville SC in the first half of their Sunday night match against Portland Timbers doomed the Coyotes to their third-worst loss ever as a professional club and just the sixth time in 249 professional matches that the club have ever conceded four goals. It was not a good night for Nashville SC.

The XI

Sam Surridge returned from injury and Shaq Moore came back from international duty, while Forster Ajago made his second consecutive start after apparently winning the starting role from Teal Bunbury.

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On the pitch

After an even opening 15 minutes, in which Nashville created a handful of looks but couldn’t finish, Portland took over. From the 18th to the 29th minute, the Timbers took five shots and scored four goals.

One.

Two.

Three.

Four.

Nashville were completely shell-shocked. They were also defensively culpable for all four goals. The first was a poorly-chosen and poorly-weighted pass from Walker Zimmerman, opting to play Brian Anunga into pressure with his back to goal. Anunga was put in a bad spot, but also dealt with the pass quite poorly, leading to a bad turnover.

Zimmerman was poorly positioned for the second, pushing into midfield to win a ball but caught ball-watching as Nashville tossed in a couple crosses, and was caught high up the pitch as Portland countered. Shaq Moore ended up all alone against Jonathan Rodríguez, but didn’t deal at all well with the resulting dribble and shot.

Dan Lovitz found himself in a similar position for the third, stuck in no man’s land as the Timbers bypassed him with a single pass and found Nashville’s backline scrambling. The fourth goal again came down to a lack of pressure from Lovitz on the left side, and sloppy marking from Zimmerman to allow Williamson to tap in uncontested behind him.

By the time Brian Anunga was sent off in the 35th minute after VAR review for an awful tackle on David Ayala, the game was already over. Surprisingly, though, Nashville looked much better in the second half, playing with 10 men and still managing to use the ball to create chances. Sam Surridge, shoehorned into a left wingback role for the final 45 minutes, found a late consolation goal to salvage a bit of dignity for the visitors. His eighth goal of the season had absolutely no bearing on the result, though.

The big picture

It’s a difficult match to analyze. Based on the eye test and general sentiments surrounding the match, it was among their worst performances ever. But looking at the stats and the quality of chances both teams created, it wasn’t 4-1 bad. Nashville made four defensive mistakes that lead to four chances (of varying quality) for the Timbers. They finished every single one.

This isn’t to say Nashville deserved anything from the match – they didn’t. But the goals they conceded are more indicative of an off night instead of overarching systemic issues. It was an awful night and a horrible result, but unless it becomes a pattern it shouldn’t be the catalyst for sweeping changes.

While there are few positives to take from this match, the way the Coyotes responded in the second half is worth mentioning. Despite playing down a man, interim head coach Rumba Munthali kept his key players on, made a few tactical shifts, and went toe-to-toe with Portland. The game had the potential to get even uglier, but Nashville maintained a shred of dignity with their second-half play.

Sam Surridge also continued his form, finding the net for the eighth time in MLS this season and the ninth in all competitions. He looks set to be the first non-Hany Mukhtar double-digit goal scorer since 2021.

Up next

Nashville have a full week to recover before traveling to 15th-placed DC United on Saturday, July 13, for their Southern Championship Belt clash.

Post-match quotes

Stats

Possession: POR 53% – 47% NSH
Passes completed: POR 469 – 405 NSH
Shots: POR 18 – 12 NSH
Shots on goal: POR 8 – 3 NSH
Penalty kicks: POR 0 – 0 NSH
Expected goals: POR 2.45 – 1.94 NSH
Goals: POR 4 – 1 NSH
Fouls: POR 10 – 11 NSH
Yellow cards: POR 0 – 1 NSH
Red cards: POR 0 – 1 NSH

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

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