England 3, United States 0

So that pretty much stunk. England dominated early, let its foot off the gas a bit in the middle (and still didn’t concede), and then finished strong to hold off any hopes of the Americans making things look pretty on the final scoreboard.

Yay.

The Americans came out with something pretty close to a first-choice group (given the options available), whereas England was young. See?:

Lineups

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Match events

  • 25′ ENG GOAL – 14 Jesse Lingard (right foot), assisted by 11 Dele Alli
  • 27′ ENG GOAL – 2 Trent Alexander-Arnold (right foot), assisted by 7 Jadon Sancho
  • 45’+1 Half time
  • 46′ ENG Substitution – On 21 Alex McCarthy, off 1 Jordan Pickford
  • 58′ ENG Substitutions – On 22 Eric Dier, off 3 Benjamin Chilwell; On 16 Jordan Henders, off 11 Dele Alli; On 10 Wayne Rooney, off 14 Jesse Lingard
  • 62′ USA Substitution – On 4 Tyler Adams, off 16 Julian Green
  • 70′ USA Substitution – On 23 Kellyn Acosta, off 20 Wil Trapp
  • 73′ ENG Substitution – On 23 Ruben Loftus-Cheeks, off 8 Harry Winks
  • 76′ USA Substitutions – On 14 Sebastian Lletget, off 8 Weston McKennie; on 15 Kenny Saief, off 11 Tim Weah
  • 77′ ENG GOAL – 9 Callum Wilson (left foot), assisted by 4 Fabian Delph
  • 79′ ENG Substitution – On 19 Marcus Rashford, off 9 Callum Wilson
  • 88′ USA Substitution – On 18 Shaq Moore, off 19 Jorge Villafaña
  • 90’+3 Full time

Thoughts and observations

This game was – as much as any other under interim coach Dave Sarachan – marred by… being led by interim coach Dave Sarachan. That’s not a rip on him specifically (though obviously his specific choices in the situation were not ideal), as much as the concept that an interim guy doesn’t have a specific plan. Is he building for the future? Is he trying to get a result? Like so many of the Americans’ friendlies in the past year, he just sorta came out coaching the game, with no designs on a bigger picture – while also not really making the lineup and tactical choices to best ensure a result.

Each choice by a manager has to be for one purpose (build to the future) or the other (win the dang game), and all too often Sarachan has been stuck in between, ending up doing neither. With no specific system to install or tactical plan to build for the future, there’s really no excuse for it.

Some of the choices in the starting lineup were shining examples of this:

  • Brad Guzan as starting keeper. I understand (though don’t much care for) the fact that he’s going to remain a part of this squad into the future. In a game like this, however, he’d either give you the far better chance to win the game, or you try a younger guy. I don’t think he was the former, so go for the latter. Horvath wouldn’t have done worse on the three goals – which I don’t think were Guzan’s fault – and you’re giving him international experience and an opportuntiy to show his club that he deserves to be playing.
  • Julian Green as the No. 10. I do get wanting Pulisic on the wing (where he plays for his club team and has built comfort), but we’ve seen a lot of Green in various roles over the past few months. He hasn’t done a whole lot to separate himself as the option that gives the team the best chance to win on a given day, nor has he shown much that indicates he’ll be that in the future. I’ve been a Green supporter (more like defender) for a while, but in this game at the very least – and going forward more generally – this didn’t seem like an implementation that had much purpose.
  • Trapp and McKennie next to each other in the central midfield. You sort of have a good central defensive mid and then a similar (but not as good) version of same next to each other, if you’re not going to let McKennie release forward a bit. Two No. 6s is fine, if not ideal. For one of them to be Trapp if you’re going to have both be strictly defensive… meh. I do understand (despite a lot of bitching about it around the USMNT-verse about it yesterday) not starting Tyler Adams. His job is with NYRB, and to risk injury by giving him too many minutes in an overseas exhibition match while his day job is on the brink of entering its stretch run is silly. But either play Kellyn Acosta next to Trapp/McKennie, or at least let McKennie push forward a bit. He did have that opportunity a bit later, but if you’re gonna get a three-spot put on you with two CDMs, might as well free one up the whole game anyway.

Goal analysis

A little film breakdown here on some items about the goals. First, Christian Pulisic has somewhat inexplicably been blamed for the first one on account of his failed attempt to score on the other end creating a break. First, uh, not only was there not a counterattack by England off the shot, there was a secondary break for the USMNT that led to a goal kick after Bobby Wood’s attempt went over the bar. That’s no counter-attack.

Secondly, the finish has been roundly criticized, but I don’t really see it. Yes, Pickford made the save, but it was a pretty nice save on an attempt to finish that doesn’t deserve the grief it’s gotten.

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See the ball between Pickford’s right elbow and right knee.

The best finish ever? No. But bad? Certainly not. As a side note, check out Wood and McKennie there. Wood made the right choice in not playing Pulisic’s initial ball forward (he was probably being held onside, but couldn’t see that), but he needs to keep playing after that and either give Pulisic a passing option – if only to create space for the shot rather than actually receive the ball – or be ready to make a play on the rebound if Pickford saves the shot across the face of goal. Pickford’s save pushed the ball back in Pulisic’s direction, yes, but Wood couldn’t have known that before the shot. He needs to be in the right spot, even if it hindsight shows it wouldn’t have accomplished much.

ANYWAY, Pulisic was one of a couple players culpable on the ensuing goal. The live shot of it was poorly directed so you couldn’t tell what the heck was going on, but fortunately ESPN gave us a replay of the wide angle afterwards (I had a nice little video breakdown but UEFA doesn’t believe in fair use):

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This mostly boils down to neither Wil Trapp nor Matt Miazga trusting DeAndre Yedlin defensively (they’re both positioned to take care of a run from Alli on the assumption that he’s going to toast Yedlin), and Pulisic not getting back to help cover Lingard.

IMG_BE63DBBDAC41-1Trapp is giving directions, and while you can’t really tell who they’re for, context would seem to imply Yedlin (calling him off, and saying to sink while Trapp takes the man mark) or maaaybe Miazga (telling him to stay deep in front of the goal, which he does). Both Trapp and Miazga are in positions where they’re not accomplishing much – you could argue Miazga is remaining in position to cut out Sancho’s run if McKennie can’t do it – and it seems to be because of that lack of trust in Yedlin. In the abstract, they turn out to be wrong: Miazga can’t recover quickly enough to stop Lingard from getting off a good shot, Trapp isn’t in position to shut down any passing or dribbling options for Alli that Yedlin doesn’t theoretically have taken care of already. But if you assume the context of thinking Alli will get past Yedlin if he wants, they’re trying to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic, in some ways.

Pulisic could certainly help by getting back defensively into that passing lane to Lingard, or at least being in position to help on Chilwell if the ball is played back. He seemed to be frustrated with his giveaway that started the offensive opportunity, instead of embracing the chance to make up for it (he’s also more used to having less defensive responsibility in a three-man mid/forward line than as a wide mid in a 4-4-1-1, which was among the many reasons the team played better when the look became more of a 4-2-3-1).

The second goal was a more overt ball-watching opportunity by Tim Weah, which again was putting a player (forward/winger) into a position (left midfielder) that gives him responsibilities he’s less comfortable with, particularly defensively. Neither Pulisic nor Weah is used to the defensive role that comes from being the wide guy in a flat-four midfield, and it was curtains on both of those.

Other thoughts: As I mentioned above, the Julian Green thing is done for me. A 4-2-3-1 with Pulisic in the middle (while he doesn’t play there for Dortmund, he’s mentioned that’s where he’s comfortable for the United States, and the opportunities he had in this one showed he doesn’t need to be isolated on the wing to win one-on-one dribbles… or several in a row) and Weah/Saief on the wings. Depending on how you want to play and who you have available, That’d be Saief on the left and Weah on the right with more stay-at-home fullbacks behind them, or with the balls-to-the-wall experience that is Antonee Robinson (who left this camp with injury) and DeAndre Yedlin at fullback, flip the sides so Weah is inverted.

I’ve been thinking it without wanting to say it for a while, but I saw others mentioning it yesterday (so don’t give me any credit for it, since I needed others’ courage to put it out publicly), but… is John Brooks… not good? He certainly hasn’t played well lately for the US, even with Sarachan mostly giving him the opportunity to get comfortable next to Miazga. Mark me in the “worried” column, and I certainly want to keep a closer eye on his performances going forward to confirm or (preferably) disconfirm the thought. Give me some CCV on Tuesday, though.

I’ve seen complaining about Tyler Adams not starting on the field (addressed above already), with the comparison to Wil Trapp, who also played in the NYRB/Columbus series. Yo, his team lost and he doesn’t have more season to not be worn out for. “They both had long seasons” doesn’t make sense as a hilarious roast of Sarachan when Adams’s season is still in the present tense.

Pulisic’s finishing has been criticized, and I addressed the one play above, but there were other instances that have been cited, too. I’m not thrilled about it, of course, but given this is just his second appearance with the US in 2018, he’s been banged up a bit (and otherwise out of action with Dortmund thanks to great performances from the guy who played right wing for the other team in this one), and it hasn’t been a persistent issue in the past. His take-on form was great; I’ll believe that it’s worth his finishing/end-product form being a little off unless and until that becomes a persistent issue.

Kellyn Acosta has a good beard.

As I mentioned at the top, this stunk. The gameplan wasn’t good, some individual performances were mediocre (or worse), and the key moments all went England’s way. To a certain extent, that’s what happens when you play against a World Cup semifinalist (albeit one who was playing a bunch of guys who got minimal time – if any at all – in Russia).

It’s more depressing because these teams were on relatively even footing in the international world just a few years ago. The US lost steam by getting old without having new guys step up (or without that next generation even existing to be able to step up), missing the World Cup, having a couple coaches who were flawed in opposite ways and being unable to survive the whiplash of switching between those flaws, etc. No need to relitigate all of that.

Largely, this could (almost certainly would) have gone better – or at least been more productive for the future – with a permanent coach in place, and a plan to either “do what we’re gonna do and win this game doing it” or “let’s use this as a scratchpad to build for the future and develop our style along with some young players.” Sarachan, for the vast majority of his time in charge, has done very little of the former, and an underrated amount (but I’d say still not enough) of the latter.

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Heartbreak in Cincinnati, but a bright future for Nashville SC

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File photo by Ryan Lassan Photography/For Club and Country

When Justin Davis stepped to the penalty spot, the stakes were clear: if he missed, FC Cincinnati would have a very strong chance to advance in the USL playoffs. Davis missed, Cincy’s Kenney Walker didn’t, Nashville SC season over.

“All five of our penalties were amazing,” said Nashville coach Gary Smith. “Then we were down to guys that were not our first choice. Then [Cincinnati] squeaked it. I wanted so badly to win. If you don’t win, then conduct yourself with the utmost professionalism. We deserved more with the effort our guys gave tonight.”

It’s certainly a heartbreaking final result in Nippert Stadium, but it’s not a feeling of depression that arises, but one of gratitude and even hope. The Boys in Gold didn’t lose to Cincinnati in 90 preseason minutes. They didn’t lose to Cincinnati in 270 regular-season minutes. They didn’t even lose in 120 postseason minutes. In 480 minutes (390 of them competitive) against the best team in USL history, a scrappy bunch from Music City would not be beaten.

Go down 1-0 in the fifth minute of extra time? Leave it to fan favorite (and oft snake-bitten when it came to finishing this year) centerback Bradley Bourgeois to find the equalizer with 115 minutes played.

Whether you want to consider the game a draw with Cincinnati advancing on penalties, or a loss for Nashville, the end result is the same: the season is over for NSC, and it’s not for FCC. There’s a bit of regret that it came to a first-round matchup between these teams in the first place. Dropped points in a road game against Ottawa that almost certainly should have been a 1-0 win, or against Toronto at home in one that should have been a 2-1 win at worst, or any number of results that Nashville let slip through their hands… any one point would have meant avoiding MLS-bound FCC in the first round of the playoffs.

For all the bittersweet feelings about the way the season ended, though, it was one hell of a ride. That’s what fans will always remember.

“I think it’s been really fun to watch the team and the identity of this team to grow into itself and for the fans to really come behind us,” said midfielder Matt LaGrassa. We had a great group traveling and supporting us today and the way that it has all unfolded, there is just so much to look forward to in this city.”

Whether that fan is one who feels a loss of ownership in the team (in both a literal and emotional sense) as it finishes the first professional year of a transition from fully supporter-owned to an MLS side in just a four-year run-up, or somebody who discovered the squad Friday afternoon, nobody was ready for this season to end. But it provided memories that will last a lifetime. For one last time in 2018, with a look both to the season past and the future, Come on, you boys in Gold.

– TWS

If you were looking for a more traditional “here is what happened in the game, here is analysis of going to the 3-5-2” game story, sorry. Start your own website and write away.

Starting lineups

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Match events

  • 45’+2 – Half time
  • 68′ CIN Substitution – On 6 Kenney Walker, off 27 Fatai Alashe
  • 74′ NSH Substitution – On 32 Brandon Allen, off 12 Tucker Hume
  • 85′ CIN Substitution – On 20 Jimmy McLaughlin, off 5 Nazmi Albadawi
  • 90’+4 – Full time
  • 95′ CIN GOAL – 19 Corben Bone (right foot), assisted by 6 Kenney Walker
  • 98′ NSH Substitution – On 11 Ish Jome, off 27 Kosuke Kimura
  • 100′ CIN Substitution – On 16 Richie Ryan, off 4 Tyler Gibson
  • 104′ CIN Yellow card – 23 Blake Smith (foul)
  • 105’+1 – Half extra time
  • 106′ NSH Substitution – On 26 Kris Tyrpak, off 23 Taylor Washington
  • 110′ NSH Yellow Card – 2 Justin Davis (foul)
  • 110′ NSH Substitution – On 4 Ramone Howell, off 30 Bolu Akinyode
  • 111′ CIN Yellow card – 45 Emmanuel Ledesma (foul)
  • 115′ NSH GOAL – 22 Bradley Bourgeois (left footed), assisted by 26 Kris Tyrpak
  • 116′ NSH Yelllow card – 22 Bradley Bourgeois (too much swag)
  • 120’+1 CIN Substitution – On 10 Emery Welshman, off 45 Emmanuel Ledesma
  • 120’+2 Full extra time
  • PK SHOOTOUT: NSH 5 Liam Doyle, 32 Brandon Allen, 19 Alan Winn, 20 Matt LaGrassa, 26 Kris Tyrpak SCORE. CIN 9 Fanendo Adi, 20 Jimmy McLaughlin, 23 Blake Smith, 32 Justin Hoyte, 3 Forrest Lasso SCORE.
  • PK SHOOTOUT Sudden death: NSH 2 Justin Davis MISS, CIN 6 Kenney Walker SCORE
  • Full time

Highlights

Nashville SC finds late equalizer to draw regular-season champion Cincinnati

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NASHVILLE – In the most exciting Nashville SC game of the year, the Boys in Gold drew already-clinched regular-season champions FC Cincinnati in the friendly confines of First Tennessee Park – the third draw of the season between these two sides (fourth, counting a preseason friendly).

Nashville scored early – Tucker Hume headed home an Alan Winn cross in the fifth minute – and then late – Boilu Akinyode opened his Nashville SC account with a left-footed blast from outside the box as second-half stoppage time approached – to set the tone, then escape with a result when FC Cincinnati’s high-powered attack controlled the middle portions of the contest. In the end, a 3-3 result was fair.

Nashville ended with just 33.7% possession, but launched five shots on-target to Cincinnati’s eight, and made three goals stand up with the defensive performance.

Stay tuned for more to come from this game.

Lineups

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Match events

  • 5′ NSH GOAL – 12 Tucker Hume (head), assisted by 19 Alan Winn
  • 21′ NSH Substitution – On 26 Kris Tyrpak, off 17 Michael Reed (injury)
  • 39′ CIN Yellow card – 5 Nazmi Albadawi (foul)
  • 40′ NSH Yellow card – 20 Matt LaGrassa (argument)
  • 45’+2 Half time
  • 52′ CIN GOAL – 19 Corben Bone (right foot), assisted by 45 Emmanuel Ledesma
  • 63′ CIN GOAL – 5 Nazmi Albadawi (head, rebound)
  • 64′ NSH Substitution – On 32 Brandon Allen, off 12 Tucker Hume
  • 73′ NSH Substitution – On 4 Ramone Howell, off 19 Alan Winn (injury)
  • 74′ CIN Substitutions – On 16 Richie Ryan and 11 Danni Konig, off 13 Michael Lahoud and 9 Fanendo Adi
  • 75′ CIN Substitution – On 20 Jimmy McLaughlin, off 5 Nazmi Albadawi
  • 80′ NSH GOAL – 32 Brandon Allen (left foot), assisted by 3 Ropapa Mensah
  • 81′ CIN GOAL – 19 Corben Bone (right foot), assisted by 16 Richie Ryan
  • 90′ NSH GOAL – 30 Bolu Akinyode (left foot)
  • 90’+3 Full time

Nashville SC takes care of business in Richmond, seizes control of its playoff destiny

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Photo by some Richmond fan, courtesy of Angelo’s phone

RICHMOND, Va. – Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good. Saturday evening, Nashville SC was certainly both. The Boys in Gold romped over the USL’s worst team, the Richmond Kickers, with a fortuitous bounce on each of the first two goals.

In the 20th minute, Ropapa Mensah’s ball across the face of goal was deflected by Kickers goalkeeper Trevor Spangenberg. It popped into the air… and directly into the path of striker Tucker Hume, who calmly nodded it home. In the 29th, a second Mensah cross again found a Richmond player first… but Mekeil Williams’s attempted clearance instead found the foot of Nashville captain Michael Reed, who got one of the most accidental goals he’ll ever score when it ricocheted directly into the net.

By comparison, Alan Winn’s capper was pedestrian. He ran onto a through ball from Matt LaGrassa in the 56th minute, and opened his hips to hit the right-footed shot across the frame past an on-rushing Spangenberg.

The numbers may not seem like Nashville was all that dominant. The Boys in Gold had only 41.3% of possession, only took six shots compared to 16 for the Kickers, and generally didn’t own the ancillary stats. However, much of Richmond’s productivity came from a Nashville team with a lead willing to absorb pressure and counter – knowing the Kickers would prefer to do the same, and are uncomfortable on the front foot – and the only Richmond shot on-target was a long free kick that was easily corralled by NSC keeper Matt Pickens.

Nashville’s early tactics were as exciting a brand of soccer fans have seen all year: for the second straight game, large stretches of a 4-3-3 formation with Tucker Hume the target striker and Ropapa Mensah on the right were used (Alan Winn, an in-cutting winger replaced left Ish Jome on the left this week). It paid off, with Mensah failing to register an assist despite two passes that resulted directly in Nashville SC goals. Mensah is a quintessential “tries shit” player (to use the parlance of Bruce Arena), and it’s easy to both see why the conservative Gary Smith has been hesitant to use him in situations where a turnover could be damaging… but it’s also easy to see that a little bit of risk-reward amplification may be just what this team needs to unlock more offensive production.

Mensah went the full 90, but the substitutions were more on the conservative side (understandable, given they didn’t come until NSC had been sitting on a lead for a quarter-hour), with defender Ryan James replacing LaGrassa – though he played in a midfield role at the beginning of his time on the field – midfielder Robin Shroot replacing Reed, and defender London Woodberry going on for Hume.

With the win, Nashville places itself in prime position to make a run for the playoffs. The side currently stands seventh in the East, but has a game in hand on each of the three teams ahead of it in the standings, and could clinch the postseason as early as tomorrow evening. Toronto FC II will take the trip south to First Tennessee Park, and Nashville will be looking for revenge after a loss in Rochester in July.

Lineups

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Match events

  • 20′ NSH GOAL – 12 Tucker Hume (headed, rebound)
  • 29′ NSH GOAL – 17 Michael Reed (left foot/knee, rebound)
  • 40′ RIC Yellow card – 28 Greg Boehme (foul)
  • 45’+2 – Half time
  • 46′ RIC Substitution – On 92 Giuseppe Gentile, off 28 Greg Boehme
  • 56′ NSH GOAL – 19 Alan Winn (right-footed), assisted by 20 Matt LaGrassa
  • 62′ RIS Substitution – On 14 Tudai Imura, off 25 Brandon Eaton
  • 70′ NSH Substitution – On 27 Ryan James, off 20 Matt LaGrassa
  • 76′ RIC Substitution – On 10 Scott Thomsen, off 17 Oscar Umar
  • 80′ NSH Substitution – On 8 Robin Shroot, off 17 Michael Reed
  • 81′ RIC Yellow card – 38 Prince Agyemang (foul)
  • 82′ NSH Substitution – On 28 London Woodberry, off 12 Tucker Hume
  • 90′ RIC Yellow card – 92 Giuseppe Gentile (foul)
  • 90’+5 – Full time

Highlights

Nashville SC earns second draw of the season against Baby Bulls

Editor’s note: WordPress devoured an earlier version of this post, published from the pressbox Saturday night. All that remained was the title and top image – no text – so this is a total re-write. Apologies for the technical difficulties and for the delay in getting it up. I, uh, don’t get paid a dime for writing this site, and honestly just didn’t feel like doing it.

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NASHVILLE – Last time Nashville SC played against New York Red Bulls II, they earned a draw in Red Bull Arena waaaay back at the beginning of May. At the time, it was considered a solid road result for a new club, against a team that didn’t lose all that often on home turf. A rollercoaster of a season later, and the same 1-1 scoreline will be a disappointment for the Boys in Gold.

This one came at home (NYRBII is notoriously poor on the road), and after NSC had spent time as one of the best teams in the USL… but also after the long decline since midseason to a fringe playoff team. Playing against another fringe playoff team – and with more than half an hour of man-advantage soccer – you’d have liked to see better.

NYRBII opened the scoring early, when a lack of composure for centerback Justin Davis led to a takeaway, the ball played across the face of his own goal by a Red Bulls player, and Amando Moreno easily slotting home the feed from Jared Stroud alone on the back post. Against a Nashville team that doesn’t score a ton of goals, earning a fifth-minute lead can be quite the path to victory. The Red Bulls would even have a chance to double their lead in the 14th minute, when a questionable penalty went against NSC’s Taylor Washington. However, keeper Matt Pickens faked to his left, saved to his right, and denied Tom Barlow from the spot.

“I just did my homework,” Pickens said of what went into the save. “I try to do things that are going to offset him and I try to let him actually play into my hands instead of me playing into his hands.”

Nashville would level the match after a red carded foul just outside the box committed by José Aguinaga. A little set-piece trickery – Taylor Washington tipped the ball to Liam Doyle, who bumped it back to set up Michael Reed for a shot under the charging wall – led to a blast into the lower-left corner from the captain of the Boys in Gold, and we were on level pegging in the 26th.

“It was kind of funny because when it happened we kind of talked about who takes it,” Reed said. “In that area, we were discussing does Liam whip it across or does Taylor try, but they said ‘no, you do it.’ My goal was to get it on frame. Do not hit it out of bounds or hit the wall but get it on frame. When I hit it, not that I was shocked, I was excited it was a clean hit and I thought ‘Oh man, I scored’. It was weird. I’m totally excited about it.”

With the balance of the game being played with an NSC man-advantage, a winner seemed likely.

“I honestly thought that the 10-man group [for the Red Bulls] did a good a job as I’ve seen from a group of men down to press the game, to make the game still purposeful for the group and look like they could actually go on and win the game,” said Nashville coach Gary Smith. “I was disappointed with the speed of our play and our ability to deal with that high press that we’d spoken about for the days leading into this.”

It wasn’t to be, however, with a few more Nashville chances going wanting. Tucker Hume couldn’t solve keeper Evan Louro played in alone on the keeper by Alan Winn in the 34th minute, a potential own-goal was saved off the line by a New York defender in the 63rd, NSC winger Kris Tyrpak was denied a clear penalty in the 69th (with Taylor Washington earning a yellow card for dissent), and the final kick of the game was a bicycle kick by Davis into the back of the net… on which he was correctly ruled offside following the second ball on a corner kick.

Having plenty of opportunities to put one into the back of the net won’t be much consolation for Nashville, though, because they were unable to finish the deal.

With the draw and results around the conference, they dropped to ninth place in the East (tied for eighth but giving up tiebreakers to North Carolina FC). However, with three games left – two of them against the bottom pair in the Eastern Conference – they have a chance to not only claw back into playoff position, but escape the No. 8 slot, which would see them face FC Cincinnati (also their final regular-season opponent) in the first round.

“All these times are teaching moments for guys as well,” said Pickens. “It doesn’t just start here and end here at games, we go through video and we talk. We have to convey to them our situations and our experiences and how to deal with moments in the game, especially after that first goal. It’s my job to do that and it’s Kosuke’s [Kimura] job to do that. Us older guys, the veteran guy’s job to do that. It’s our role on the team.”

There’s everything to play for, and while earning a point isn’t the worst outcome, Nashville SC hasn’t made things easy on itself by erasing any doubt in the final few weeks of the regular season.

Lineups

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Match events

  • 5′ NY GOAL – 20 Amando Moreno (left foot), assisted by 50 Jared Stroud
  • 14′ NY PENALTY SAVED – 74 Tom Barlow (right foot), saved by NSH 18 Matt Pickens (conceded by NSH 23 Taylor Washington)
  • 24′ NY RED CARD – 89 José Aguinaga (foul)
  • 26′ NSH GOAL – 17 Michael Reed (right foot), assisted by 5 Liam Doyle (set piece)
  • 45’+3 – Half time
  • 46′ NSH Substitution – On 30 Bolu Akinyode, off 11 Ish Jome
  • 53′ NSH Yellow card – 30 Bolu Akinyode (foul)
  • 65′ NSH Yellow card – 20 Matt LaGrassa (persistent infringement)
  • 66′ NSH Substitution – On 26 Kris Tyrpak, off 12 Tucker Hume
  • 69′ NSH Yellow card – 23 Taylor Washington (dissent)
  • 72′ NY Yellow card – 50 Jared Stroud (time-wasting)
  • 74′ NY Substitution – On 68 Lucas Stauffer, off 74 Tom Barlow
  • 78′ NY Yellow card – 41 Ethan Kutler (foul)
  • 90’+1 NSH Substitution – On 28 London Woodberry, off 19 Alan Winn
  • 90’+2 NY Substitution – On 40 Niko De Vera, Off 20 Amando Moreno
  • 90’+4 – Full time

Game highlights

 

Boys in Gold prevail on the road, take down ATL UTD 2

Nashville SC’s road form has been iffy at best this year (they’re the 16th-best side in USL away from home, and fifth-best at First Tennessee Park and Nissan Stadium), but some of those demons were erased Wednesday night with a 2-0 takedown of Atlanta United 2.  Ropapa Mensah banged home the rebound from an Ish Jome shot in the seventh minute, while Hume did the same for one of Mensah’s shots in the 64th to give NSC just its third road victory on the year.

Atlanta United 2 becomes the second team that Nashville has played at least three times in competitive play (they’re 1-2-1 against Louisville City FC), and the first to suffer three losses to the Boys in Gold. The Baby Five Stripes also conceded multiple goals to Nashville SC, becoming just the second home team to do so (and second consecutive after a 3-3 draw at North Carolina FC).

This was a stronger Atlanta 2 team than expected, with US Youth Internationals Andrew Carleton, Chris Goslin, and Miles Robinson in the starting lineup. Additionally, starting striker Romario Williams has 16 MLS appearances for the parent club this season, while defender Jose Hernandez and midfielder Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu have also appeared for Atlanta United. This was a lineup more similar to Atlanta’s second trip to Nashville, nearly as strong as it’s possible for them to put out, rather than the rag-tag group that made the initial trip to Music City and took a 3-0 loss to the Boys in Gold.

It wasn’t exactly a complete performance – content to sit back and absorb pressure after getting the lead, Nashville possessed only 34.6% of the ball, and allowed 17 shots to ATL UTD 2 – but getting Mensah back on the board after he’d been shut out since June 16, adding an insurance goal, and pitching a clean sheet are things the team hadn’t done enough of lately, and particularly so on the road.

“It was really good to get back on the scoresheet once again because this stretch has been very frustrating for me,” Mensah said. “I’m really excited to get things going again.”

Nashville SC won’t have to wait long to get things going again. Back into playoff position with at least one game in hand on each of the five teams directly ahead of them in the table, the Boys in Gold will try to create separation between themselves at No. 8 and New York Red Bulls II. The Baby Bulls, who are just a point behind on the same number of games played, will travel to First Tennessee Park Saturday evening.

“There was added pressure of course, given the results swinging in our favor this evening,” said head coach Gary Smith. “Tonight, we gave ourselves a massive shot in the arm up the standings.

“The fact that we are so close together in the standings: we have to make sure we take advantage of the situation at home. I would hope the confidence taken out of the game tonight will give everyone the right mindset heading into the weekend.”

Should Nashville pick up a win in that game, they’ll be able to ease a bit of the tension that has come from dropping points in six of their previous seven games. With a playoff berth within reach, doing the expected is all that’s needed to earn a postseason berth in the club’s first USL season.

Saturday’s game kicks off at 7:30 CDT. The Red Bulls have yet to win on the road this year (0-5-9), and that makes it effectively must-win for the Boys in Gold to all-but seal their spot in the championship tournament.

Lineups

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Match events

  • 7′ NSH GOAL – 3 Ropapa Mensah (right-footed, rebound)
  • 45’+2 – Half time
  • 50′ NSH Yellow card – 3 Ropapa Mensah
  • 61′ NSH Substitution – On 7 Ryan James, off 19 Alan Winn
  • 64′ NSH GOAL – 12 Tucker Hume (right-footed, rebound)
  • 65′ NSH Substitution – On 30 Bolu Akinyode, off 3 Ropapa Mensah
  • 69′ ATL Substitution – On 23 Lagos Kunga, off 2- Chris Goslin
  • 82′ ATL Substitution – On 36 Jackson Conway, off 28 Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu
  • 85′ NSH Substitution – On 28 London Woodberry, off 27 Kosuke Kimura
  • 89′ ATL Substitution – On 11 Laurent Kissiedu, off 4 Jack Metcalf
  • 90’+3 Full time.

Nashville manages water-logged draw against Charleston Battery

 

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Get after it, Big Bird

NASHVILLE – Things got off to a raucous start in First Tennessee Park this evening. Nashville SC striker Tucker Hume made the most of a poor header from Liam Doyle in a set piece situation, and turned it into an overhead kick for the opening tally of the night.

The lead didn’t last long, though, with a Charleston free kick punched off the line by Nashville keeper Matt Pickens… directly onto the head of Battery midfielder Tah Anunga.

Despite Nashville playing against 10 men after Charleston’s Patrick Okonkwo was shown a violent-conduct red card in the 61st minute, the Boys in Gold could find plenty of chances at the net, but never the back of it. Ultimately, the game will go into the record books as a 1-1 draw.

A second half that saw Nashville fire cross after cross into the box couldn’t get the 6-5 Hume a headed chance on the frame, and replacing midfielder Ish Jome with striker Ropapa Mensah – a rare offense-first formation from Nashville, facilitated by the man advantage – couldn’t help. Advantages in possession (56.6%-43.4%) and shots (12-10) couldn’t help NSC find a winner.

With the draw, Nashville sits on 40 points through 29 games, just outside the playoff positions. Fortunately, they should have a chance to make up ground in the coming days, with upcoming contests against Atlanta United 2, Richmond Kickers, and Toronto FC II,  the worst three teams in the Eastern Conference. If they can take full points from that trio – no guarantee, with a loss to Toronto already on the books this year – home contests against New York Red Bulls II and FC Cincinnati may be more for jockeying within playoff position, rather than trying to simply make the postseason. If not, things should be very interesting down the stretch.

Starting lineups

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Match events

  • 9′ NSH GOAL – 12 Tucker Hume (right foot overhead), assisted by 5 Liam Doyle
  • 24′ CHS GOAL – 24 Tah Anunga (headed)
  • 31′ NSH Substitution – On 32 Brandon Allen, off 10 Lebo Moloto (injury)
  • 45’+2 NSH Yellow card – 17 Michael Reed (foul)
  • 45’+4 – Half time
  • 60′ CHS RED CARD – 17 Patrick Okonkwo (violent conduct)
  • 63′ CHS Yellow card – 20 Victor Mansaray
  • 68′ CHS Substitution – On 21 Angelo Kelly-Rosales, off 20 Victor Mansaray
  • 69′ NSH Substitution – On 3 Ropapa Mensah, off 11 Ish Jome
  • 76′ CHS Substitution – On 9 Ian Svantesson, off 15 Gordon Wild
  • 84′ NSH Substitution – On 8 Robin Shroot, off 19 Alan Winn
  • 90’+4 Full time