On Saturday, Nashville SC fell 3-1 to rivals FC Cincinnati in a disastrous performance that should lead to a lot of soul searching for the club.
Against the run of play, the Boys in Gold jumped out to an early lead thanks to a Walker Zimmerman rebounded effort. However, thanks to a Luciano Acosta penalty kick, the hosts drew level before the halftime whistle.
In the second half, the wheels fell apart for the traveling Nashville. A pair of red cards in quick succession left Nashville with just nine men for the second-straight match. FC Cincinnati quickly found the go-ahead goal but struggled to find insurance. It eventually came in stoppage time as Nashville desperately pushed numbers hoping to find a dramatic equalizer.
With the loss, Nashville have now dropped five of their last six contests. They’ve lost three consecutive matches for the first time in club history (including their two seasons in the USL Championship). After experiencing the best run of form in club history, the Boys in Gold now contend with their worst stretch ever as a professional club.
Here are my three thoughts on the match.
Lack of discipline
Despite Nashville SC fielding a roster full of veterans, this past week featured a concerning level of naivety and lack of leadership.
In all my years of soccer viewing, I cannot ever recall a team receiving two red cards in back-to-back matches. I am sure such an infamous feat has occurred before, but the instances must be few and far between.
You can blame Nashville’s double reds on the referees all you want. But the referees didn’t lunge into a reckless challenge in the box; Daniel Lovitz did. The referees did not wrestle Julián Carranza to the ground; Shaq Moore did. The officiating crew didn’t riskily kick out and hook a defender with their arm; Taylor Washington did. Most of all, no referee shoulder-checked an opponent from behind; Fafà Picault did.
Nashville only have themselves to blame. They committed a series of naive fouls and let back-to-back opponents get under their skin. All the worst, the opponents were FC Cincinnati and the Philadelphia Union, two of the most likely clubs standing in the way of Nashville and any hopes for silverware.
This week, Nashville displayed an utterly concerning level of naïvité and lack of discipline. Until they grow up, keep a level head, and focus on the task at hand, this team will keep committing unforced errors leading to dropped points.
Lack of right back depth
Speaking of unforced errors, Alex Muyl’s blatant (although unintentional) handball in the box highlighted not only a mistake by the player himself, but a mistake by Nashville SC in their roster construction.
Shaq Moore’s Wednesday red card pushed Muyl into a deputizing right wingback role. As I highlighted several times last year, Muyl performed the role admirably well. However, he struggled when pinned deep as a last-line defender. It is not surprising. His history is playing higher up the pitch, spots where you can get away with a flailing arm without conceding a penalty.
Muyl’s error, in that sense, can be forgiven. Moore’s red card thrust Muyl into a role he has never shown a true level of comfort in. The bigger unforced error occurred months ago.
This past offseason, Eric Miller turned down a contract offer to return as Shaq Moore’s understudy. After losing out on the dependable, although not exciting, Miller, Mike Jacobs never found a Plan B. As such, there is no natural right back on the roster for Gary Smith to call on in a pinch. Losing your first-choice right back should not result in a formation shift to adjust. But that’s the position Nashville SC is in, switching to a back five whenever Moore is out.
It is an unforced error by Mike Jacobs. One that really should be addressed before the Secondary Transfer Window closes next month.
Gift wrapping silverware to a rival
Perhaps the most disappointing result of Saturday night’s massacre is knowing that Nashville gift wrapped its rival its first piece of silverware.
FC Cincinnati dispatched one of its key competitors in their race for the Supporters’ Shield and maintained their eight-point lead in the table.
With just 11 matches remaining in the regular season and an impending U.S. Open Cup semifinal, Cincinnati is on the verge of capturing the club’s first trophy.
As much as Nashville supporters love to rub dirt in the wound of FCC’s three-straight Wooden Spoons, NSC is about to get lapped by their rivals to the north.
Yikes! That Lionel Messi unveiling by MLS and Apple TV was atrocious. Missed time cues, microphones not synced into the television broadcast, and camera feeds often showing a drone view of DRV PNK Stadium rather than the dignitaries talking on stage.
The pouring rain surely complicated a lot from the technical side. However, you only get one chance at a first impression, and MLS blew that opportunity in front of a worldwide audience.