Nashville SC fell to Toronto 2-1 at BMO Field on Saturday night in one of the more disappointing performances of their otherwise strong season. They hold on to second place in the East despite the loss, but miss an opportunity to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.
Once again head coach Gary Smith used Dan Lovitz as an inverted right wingback, starting Taylor Washington on the left and continuing with the back three.
Alistair Johnston lined up as a right-sided center back, as he’s done frequently for the Canadian national team, while Brian Anunga started in place of captain Dax McCarty.
Run of play
Saturday night was one of the more frustrating performances in recent memory for Nashville. The Boys in Gold consistently put themselves in poor positions with really sloppy passing out of the back, giving Toronto a handful of self-inflicted looks at goal. Toronto took advantage of one of these mistakes, catching Johnston’s late attempt at an offside trap to play Jacob Shaffelburg in clear on goal. The 21-year-old took his chance calmly, rounding Joe Willis before burying his shot in an empty net.
Smith made two adjustments after the break, bringing on Alex Muyl and Randall Leal. Nashville improved significantly and were able to get CJ Sapong and Hany Mukhtar more involved in the match. In the 74th minute the move paid off, as Leal found Sapong with a perfect cross. The striker made no mistake in his 300th MLS appearances and scored his 10th goal of the season.
With 15 minutes left, a draw wouldn’t have been a poor result for Nashville, and they continued to press for a winner. It was the hosts, though, who found the winning goal through Omar Gonzalez. The center back put Toronto ahead just five minutes after Sapong’s goal, heading in a set piece that looked nearly identical to his goal against Nashville on August 1.
“It’s really our lack of intensity tonight in such an important game,” said Gary Smith on the post match broadcast. “Tonight we were nowhere near it.”
The loss for Nashville is certainly frustrating, especially against a last-place Toronto side that had been winless in their last seven matches. The lack of ideas and urgency was worrying, as well as the fact that Aké Loba was once again used sparingly, brought on in the 83rd minute.
It’s also just Nashville’s third loss of the season, and they’re still in second place in the table. Even if Orlando beat Philadelphia tomorrow, they’ll still be tied on points for second place, but it’s hard to see this loss as anything other than a missed opportunity to separate themselves from their challengers.
Toronto FC (4-2-3-1): Bono; Laryea, Zavaleta, Gonzalaz, Auro; Delgado, Bradley; Achara (Soteldo 64′), Shaffelburg (Mavinga 84′), Osorio; Dwyer (Mullins 84′)
Nashville SC (3-4-1-2): Willis; Romney, Zimmerman, Johnston (Aké Loba 85′); Washington (Leal 55′), Godoy, Anunga (McCarty 71′), Lovitz; Mukhtar; Sapong (Cádiz 84′), Ríos (Leal 55′)
Possession: TOR 44% – 56% NSH
Shots: TOR 9 – 11 NSH
Shots on goal: TOR 4 – 5 NSH
Expected goals: TOR 1.34 – 1.42 NSH
Goals: TOR 2 – 1 NSH
Passes: TOR 301 – 371 NSH