Recap: Real Salt Lake 2 – 1 Nashville SC

Despite a much improved attacking performance, Nashville SC couldn’t capitalize, falling 2-1 to Real Salt Lake on Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.

The XI

After a poor showing in Dallas, Gary Smith reverted to the 3-4-1-2 system that served Nashville so well last year.

Teal Bunbury got his first start in a Nashville shirt, while Alex Muyl got the nod at right wingback.

On the pitch

Things could not have started worse for Nashville. Just two minutes in, Bobby Wood ran unmarked in front of Teal Bunbury to head in at the near post, putting Nashville behind nearly before they kicked off.

The ‘Yotes responded well, creating a bevy of chances, and finally pulled back in the 25th minute. Walker Zimmerman got on the end of a Hany Mukhtar set piece to thump in a trademark header, giving Nashville life again.

It looked like the visitors would go on to take a lead of their own, with Dan Lovitz rattling the post after a brilliant chipped pass from Mukhtar put him through on goal. However, RSL once again pounced on poor defending from Bunbury. A set piece was half-heartedly cleared, and defender Tate Schmitt ghosted past Bunbury at the back post to thump home.

Nashville had chances to equalize, non better than Mukhtar’s half volley in second half stoppage time, which sailed just a foot over the bar. The game effectively ended when substitute Dax McCarty was sent off for stomping on Bode Davis in a scrum near the corner flag, just the second time in McCarty’s career he’s been shown a red card.

The big picture

Nashville fans are living in a strange dichotomy. There’s no denying the difficulties of an eight match road trip to start the year, and yet it still feels like this side, which has held their own with the elites in MLS, is underperforming. The attack was markedly improved since last week in Dallas, and yet missed chances were all too frequent. Nashville are one of the best defensive units in the league, both on paper and in practice, but the routinely concede on set pieces.

It’s clear that this side has a high ceiling and the pieces in place to get them there. It’s also clear that the players have to improve their execution and Smith has to figure out how to put the pieces in place to get the most out of his side. They have four more road matches to survive before opening GEODIS Park on May 1, but they can’t afford many more performances like tonight, when they lost a match they should have won.

They have two weeks to reassess before traveling to Columbus on April 2.

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.

Comments

  1. Bunbury had a disasterclass of a performance, and I wouldn’t mind not seeing him for a few games after today. I hate wanting to “make” Gary shoehorn Loba into the lineup as he views him in more of a Mukhtar role, but if he plans on resting Sapong he needs to tweak the lineup and make him fit.

  2. True, Bunbury had a tough day, however it’s a team sport. No mention of Miller & Zimmerman’s poor communication that led to the ball getting to Schmitt at the back post to start with. No mention that Willis has made both of those saves many times in his career, just didn’t happen in this match. The actions leading to goals are often correlated to poor execution further up the pitch, not necessarily fully attributable to the player nearest the eventual goal scorer.
    It’s early in the year and I’m confident Coach Smith and staff will get the boys all on the same page by the time it matters most.

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