HARRISON, NJ – Nashville SC and New York Red Bulls shared the points on Saturday night, fighting to a scoreless draw in front of 18,474 fans at Red Bull Arena.
Gary Smith made two changes to the lineup that beat NYCFC last weekend, both of them forced. Alex Muyl came in for Randall Leal, whose complete absence from the lineup and cryptic Instagram post signaled an untimely injury, while Dax McCarty replaced the also-injured Aníbal Godoy. Notably, Walker Zimmerman continued to wear the captain’s armband, even with McCarty in the starting group.
On the pitch
As is typical for sides facing the Red Bulls, Nashville didn’t play a free flowing or attractive game. Against an energy-drink press, they were forced to play even more direct than usual. Jacob Shaffelburg found some joy down the left flank in the first half, but was withdrawn for Hany Mukhtar at the break.
The most notable bit of action from the first half (and in reality, the entire match) was a save from Joe Willis to deny John Tolkin from close range.
The young US international left back found himself unmarked at the back post, with an open goal gaping. Willis undoubtedly did well to get across the net and block his shot, but a more mature finish from Tolkin would have certainly resulted in a goal.
The rest of the match had a handful of half chances, but Nashville clearly set about to get any result on the road, and it’s hard to argue that a point away to Red Bulls is less than satisfactory.
The big picture
It was an ugly match for both sides. Smith clearly expected that, based on his postgame comments.
“You guys are obviously thinking about last week and the enjoyment and excitement and the free-flowing football that we saw,” he told reporters. “But you’ve got to put that out of your mind. It’s very difficult to do that here, and to that degree, you’ve got to show even greater fortitude to come away with a point and keep a clean sheet when you know there are other external factors that can make you very, very frustrated.”
It wasn’t pretty. It was effective against this particular opponent. At home against a winless CF Montréal next weekend, a more attractive and comprehensive attacking performance should be expected.