Nashville SC came back from their 18-day international break in fine form, waltzing past Sporting KC at Children’s Mercy Park in an impressive away showing.
Gary Smith had to make do without some key players. Sam Surridge and Randall Leal weren’t fit to start after recovering from injury and illness, respectively, while Lukas MacNaughton picked up an injury in training on Monday.
On the pitch
Nashville were more comfortable in possession than they’ve looked before on the road, playing out of the back in the face of Sporting’s press and dictating the flow of the game. They were rewarded when Fafà Picault opened the scoring, taking advantage of sub-par marking from Kansas City to bury a Dan Lovitz corner kick.
In the second half, Hany Mukhtar took over, with Walker Zimmerman playing the role of playmaker. The captain stayed high up the pitch after a set piece, getting on the end of a recycled ball from Joe Willis before crossing into the box, where Mukhtar was waiting to finish from a tight angle.
The goal, Mukhtar’s 15th of the season, puts him back in front of the Golden Boot race, as well as making him the eighth player in MLS history to score 15 or more goals in three consecutive seasons. He added an assist, his ninth of the year, late in the match, delivering a set piece for Jack Maher to flick on to goal.
The big picture
It was Nashville’s first win in the league since their 2-0 victory over DC United back on July 1. Winless after their run to the Leagues Cup final, Nashville badly needed a win and an emphatic performance. They got both on Wednesday.
The Coyotes didn’t move up the table with the win, but they certainly gained ground. Atlanta (6th), Philadelphia (4th), Orlando (2nd) and Cincinnati (1st) all dropped points on Wednesday night. Nashville remain in seventh place, but are now just three points behind Atlanta with two games in hand.
They’re five points behind fifth-place New England Revolution and fourth-place Philadelphia Union, with games against both on the schedule for October. Finishing top four and securing home field advantage certainly is an uphill battle, but it’s a little less daunting after Wednesday’s win.