Three thoughts as Nashville SC loses to Tolcua 

On Thursday night, Nashville SC lost in a seven-goal thriller to Club Deportivo Toluca. The match marked NSC’s first competitive match against an international opponent. 

Here are my three thoughts on the match. 

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Torn absolutely to shreds

Make no bones about it, Toluca ripped Nashville to pieces. Throughout the night, the Boys in Gold’s backline struggled to locate the danger and reacted a step slower than their opponents. 

The four goals Nashville gave up to Toluca tied a club record for most goals conceded in a match. The other two infamous 4-goal outings came away at Charlotte and home against Toronto in 2022. 

To put it in perspective, Nashville played with just nine men for 20 minutes plus stoppage time against F.C. Cincinnati two weeks ago and still managed to concede less than four goals. 

Toluca also put up the second-most expected goals against Nashville in club history. Only LAFC’s 4.5 xG on Decision Day last season topped the Red Devils’ output. 

On the first goal, Shaq Moore and Alex Muyl failed to coordinate and deal with the overlapping runner. The Toluca winger received the ball in the “Man City zone” and squared it off for Marcel Ruiz who snuck past an unattentive Walker Zimmerman for the tap-in goal.

On the second goal, a disorganized Nashville SC defense was victimized first by a largely unmarked run. Daniel Lovitz made amends by clearing the ball off the line. However, the midfield pair of Aníbal Godoy and Brian Anunga never collapsed down to crowd the box. As a result, Ruiz was provided ample space to fire home his second goal of the match. 

Toluca’s third goal from open play highlighted the story of the match. The Red Devils reacted quicker while Nashville SC stood flat-footed. Toluca pounced on the ricocheted ball and buried it into the back of the net to extend the lead to 4-2. 

This was as poor of a defensive display as I can ever remember for Nashville. I am not going to blame rotation either as Josh Bauer and Brian Anunga started the match. While they both committed their share of defensive missteps, this result was a team-wide calamity. 

Nashville needs to grow the f*** up

After yet another red card issued to Nashville SC, Nashville needs to grow the f*** up if it does not want to see this season spiral out of control. 

Complain about refereeing and “soft” yellows all you want, but I have never seen another club pick up five red cards in a four-match span. If you go back to the start of July and Walker Zimmerman’s red card against D.C. United, it makes six reds in six matches. 

This does not happen to other clubs. If refereeing was solely to blame, we would expect to see the same thing happen to other unfortunate teams. However, it doesn’t happen to other teams. Therefore, Nashville’s red card extravaganza is largely an indictment of their own lack of control.  

The most infuriating part of it all is that the red cards have come through a series of self-inflicted errors. 

This week’s guilty party is Teal Bunbury. The veteran striker, while on a yellow card, bickered with the referee and paid the ultimate price. It was entirely unnecessary, especially for someone already in the referee’s book. 

Bunbury hit the showers early, but he was almost joined there by Jacob Shaffelburg. The typically more reserved Canadian was demonstratively jawing with an official less than a minute after Bunbury’s dismissal. Shaffelburg, also on a second yellow stemming from an earlier shoving match, was playing with fire in that moment. He could have just as easily drawn red.

At this point, Nashville has developed a reputation for itself. Every crew officiating an NSC match from here on out will be well aware of the team’s penchant for extracurriculars that result in multiple yellow and red cards. 

If Nashville wants to shed the stigma as a team that talks back to officials and engages in off-the-ball scuffles, they will need to grow up, act like adults, and be on their best behavior in August. 

Causing problems of their own

While Nashville struggled defensively, they proved capable of causing Toluca all sorts of problems on the break. In a lot of ways, the match went according to Gary Smith’s plan. 

As I highlighted before the match, Toluca led Liga MX in possession in the combined 2022-2023 season. Teams that enjoy the ball often find themselves falling right into Smith’s trap at GEODIS Park. The ‘Yotes are more than happy to concede possession, let opposing backlines step up the pitch, and then exploit that space in behind. 

At least on the attacking end, the match played out as I expected. Nashville scored twice in open play and produced several other high-leverage opportunities.

It is encouraging that Nashville can enjoy this level of attacking success despite not having a starting-caliber striker. Luckily, help is quickly on the way.

Sam Surridge introduced himself to the crowd at GEODIS Park prior to the match. Supporters will be hoping that he solves Nashville’s perpetual striker problem.

Bonus thought

Nashville’s three goals against Toluca may not have been sufficient to win the match, but it has all but guaranteed that the Boys in Gold will advance to the knockout rounds. 

Bonus bonus thought

Up the ‘YOTES.

Author: Chris IveyChris is a senior writer covering Nashville SC. His writings focus on the team at large and often navigate the complexity of roster building around the myriad of MLS rules. Outside of Broadway Sports Media, Chris resides in Knoxville and is a licensed attorney. Beyond NSC, he is always willing to discuss Tennessee football and basketball, Coventry City, and USMNT. Follow Chris on Twitter

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