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Nashville SC game reports

MVP candidate Hany Mukhtar puts on a show as his three goals defeat the Chicago Fire 3-0

Nashville’s Hany Mukhtar scored his third hat-trick in NSC colors as Nashville went on to win 3-0 against the Chicago Fire. Nashville SC dominated this game from start to finish as they continued their hot streak of matches in the months of April and May.


Nashville goalkeeper, Joe Willis, collects his league-tying sixth clean sheet of the season. Tonight he can thank the defenders in front of him as he was only faced with five shots compared to Nashville’s 30.


Head Coach, Gary Smith, made a few changes to Saturday night’s lineup, which headlined centre-back, Walker Zimmerman, being completely absent from the lineup. This decision was probably made a bit easier now that Nashville has traded for Canadian centre-back, Lukas MacNaughton. MacNaugton made his debut since being traded by Toronto FC which saw former Nashville SC striker, CJ Sapong, going up north. Smith revealed after the match that Zimmerman experienced some soreness after training on Friday and wasn’t able to play tonight. I don’t expect Zimmerman to be featured Wednesday night either which would give the captain much-needed rest after the busy month of April which featured some USMNT caps as well as starts for the “Boys in Gold”.


Nashville SC started the game in the first half with much control and domination which hasn’t been unfamiliar in the six-match unbeaten run that they were on coming into the match. Nashville controlled the match by having nearly 60% of the possession.


It wasn’t a question of if that big chance was coming for Nashville, but rather when. That chance came in the 45th min after Dax McCarty was shoved in the back inside the box and drew the penalty. After that, everyone in the stadium knew who was getting the ball, and that was Hany Mukhtar who received the captain's armband for the second time in his NSC career. Mukhtar stepped up and rifled home his fourth goal of the season.


You obviously never want to give goals up in this league, but giving one up and quite cheaply like Chicago did can completely change the complexion of the game, and spoiler: that’s exactly what happened.


Nashville came out of the second half like they got the halftime speech of a lifetime from Smith. With numerous chances to double their lead, it looked like they just weren’t going to be able to put the final touches on this match.


That was until Jacob Shaffelburg who got his first start in nearly a month showed one of the better bursts of pace you are going to see. Shaffelburg picked the ball up about 20 yards before he got into Chicago’s side of the pitch and sprinted with the ball about 50-60 yards before he was taken down by Chicago defender, Kendall Burks. This granted Mukhtar the opportunity to grab his brace and get his 10th goal involvement (five goals and five assists), which he calmly did.


 Although Mukhtar was causing problems for Chicago all night long, to me it seemed the most effective when he was moved up front after Teal Bunbury was subbed off. This is something Smith has started doing towards the end of games when counter-attacks seem to be more prevalent. This allows Mukhtar to go up against centre-backs who a lot of times are on an island. The centre-backs in Major League Soccer aren’t sure whether to defend Mukhtar by getting close or by backing off, and you see it week in and week out. That is of course when Hany grabbed his third and final goal after an initial shot from Nashville’s Fafa Picault, the ball fell right into the path of Nashville’s star player who knocked it home to seal all three points.


With the 3-0 win tonight, Nashville SC extended their unbeaten run to seven and continues to keep up pace with the leaders in the Eastern Conference as they are now at 21 pts (New England and Cincinnati both on 24).


Nashville SC has two games this week, one being at home against FC Dallas on Wednesday in the US Open Cup, and then go on the road for the first time in five matches as they take on DC United.



Patton Cook / WNSR Nashville SC reporter

Patton_Cook on Twitter




A game truly of two halves sees Nashville SC defeat the Columbus Crew 3-1

After a sluggish first half, Nashville SC turned up the intensity and had a three goal second half. Two out of the three goals came from corners which continued to add to the impressive resumé Nashville has when it comes to scoring from setpieces. Hany Mukhtar added yet another goal and assist to his tally tonight which makes him league leading in combined goals and assists.


            The night certainly didn’t start how Nashville SC Manager, Gary Smith, would have liked with a second minute goal from Columbus Crew’s Yaw Yeboah. Although being scored on in the early stages of a match doesn’t happen very often, teams are very susceptible to conceding early chances and Nashville was punished by Columbus’ early chance. When Smith looks back at the film, he will not like the urgency of some of his defenders not stepping to Yeboah and making the shot a bit harder than what it turned out to be. Make no mistake, Yeboah’s goal was not easy by any means he still had a to do quite the spectacular to beat Joe Willis who has only been scored on 10 times which is tied for league best.


            Nashville SC went into the locker room after the first 45 minutes down 1-0 at home, which this season had never happened. They have of course lost at home (FC Cincinatti back in March), but it was uncharted territory for Nashville SC and they responded. In the 57th min off of a corner Nashville’s Fafa Picault of all people found himself with a great opportunity inside the box to tie the game at one a piece and with the slightest of touches he did just that. The main reason the goal came in my opinion was the fact that Columbus Crew’s goalkeeper Patrick Schulte ended up in the back of his own net and had zero chance of stopping any shot that ended up on target.

            Nashville SC wasn’t done in the second half as they would score the all-important goal that put them ahead of the Columbus Crew, which came from yet another corner. This time Daniel Lovitz swung in a cross and Nashville’s Teal Bunbury rose in the air and headed the ball straight down past Schulte the goalkeeper. Frankly it was a goal that Nashville SC deserved as for the entirety of the second 45 minutes the home side dominated. The credit for me has to go to Smith who made the changes that brought on Randall Leal & Jacob Shaffelburg. Those two changes just seemed to bring that spark that Nashville needed to take the lead and complete the comeback. To put the final nail in the coffin for Nashville SC, Hany Mukhtar got himself on the score sheet after an MVP type run in the final seconds of the match. Mukhtar who collected the ball in the corner of the box put on a couple of moves and froze the Columbus defender just long enough so he could smash the ball into the roof of the net to make it 3-1.


            Nashville will ring in the month of June with two road trips to FC Dallas next weekend and then follow it up going up North as they will square off against Toronto FC on June 10th. A possible reunion for the ex-Nashville SC striker CJ Sapong who was traded at the deadline for now Nashville SC defender Lukas MacNaughton.


Patton Cook / WNSR Nashville SC Columnist 




Nashville SC continues their red hot form with a 2-1 win against Inter Miami

Nashville SC scored one goal a piece in each half in a complete performance that every player on the field Wednesday night will be proud of. Centre-Back for Nashville SC, Lukas MacNaughton, scored the winning goal after a late mistake from Nashville SC’s goalkeeper, Joe Willis, who gave Inter Miami a consolation goal in stoppage time.


Team news for Wednesday night’s match against Inter Miami CF had some notable headlines. For starters, Nashville’s captain and star defender, Walker Zimmerman, remained out for the third straight match due to injury. However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom as they received reinforcements that included Randall Leal in the matchday squad in league play for the first time since late February and Sean Davis who was thrusted back into the starting lineup after missing four matches. Inter Miami also rotated a bit during this midweek match as they placed two MLS stars, Josef Martinez (leading the team in goals with three), and USMNT veteran, DeAndre Yedlin, both on the substitutes bench.


The first half, although they only had one goal to show for it, was completely dominated by Nashville SC. After the end of the first half, Nashville held just over 65% of the possession and didn't allow Inter Miami to get a single shot in the entirety of the first 45 minutes. The goal came from two players that played lots of minutes with each other, that being Nashville’s Anibal Gudoy and Hany Mukhtar. Gudoy lobbed a brilliant ball over the Miami backline after Mukhtar times it to perfection, but Mukhtar still had loads to do once he chested the ball down. With a defender on his hip, he lost him with just a drop of a shoulder and squared the ball to Nashville’s Fafa Picault who tapped it home for his 3rd goal of the season and Mukhtar collected his sixth assist of the year.


I was quite surprised with how Inter Miami started the match and even more surprised with how they started the second half. Before fans even got back into their seats from getting popcorn at Geodis Park, Nashville had another major chance in the 49th minute and they made Miami pay for it. After an initial cross was headed clear, Nashville’s Shaq Moore swung in a cross and it was the newly acquired defender for Nashville SC, Lukas MacNaughton, who headed home his first Nashville SC goal. All the game planning and tactics made by Inter Miami’s Head Coach, Phil Neville, was thrown out the window. Miami would go onto score a late goal with the last kick of the game in stoppage time after a mistake from Joe Willis. Although no clean sheet tonight for Nashville SC, it was only their eighth goal conceded which is tied for best in the league.


With all the attacking success recently, what has to be applauded is that even though Nashville SC has been without Zimmerman for a third straight match, they don’t look any less secure at the back. That reason starts with the goal scorer, MacNaughton, who has replaced Zimmerman since his injury. For a player like Zimmerman, who five months ago was starting in the World Cup for the United States, this says a lot about the performance of MacNaughton to this point.


Written by: Patton Cook / Nashville SC Columnist 


Nashville SC's depth propels them to the Round of 16 in the US Open Cup

Nashville SC did what was needed to advance in the US Open Cup after goals from Fafa Picault & Alex Muyl in the second half for a 2-0 win against FC Dallas. Wednesday night’s win was executed in true Nashville SC manager, Gary Smith fashion. His style being to provide very few chances to the opposition and when his side is given the opportunity to threaten, they take full advantage.


 With Wednesday night's game being the fourth game within two weeks, and with another game on the horizon in less than three days, Smith was always going to have to rotate a portion of the side. The question was who of his traditional “Starting XI” would he risk? The answer to that was not many at all. Smith would only ending up going with one player that has gotten consistent minutes for him over the past few weeks, and that was the goal scorer, Fafa Picault. There were however a few names that could possibly return to the starting XI in the near future who have recently returned from injury: Nashville’s Randall Leal and Sean Davis. It was nice to see Leal return to the lineup for Nashville after being seen go off injured after the season opener back in late February. For Sean, he had been out injured for a few matches now, but got much needed match fitness Wednesday night against Dallas. Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar would make the matchday squad against FC Dallas, but was only to be used in the scenario of Nashville needing a goal late. With his team up 2-0 late in the second half, his services were not required.


 FC Dallas would go with a slightly different approach in terms of the lineup as they went strong from the beginning hoping to find that first goal early, but it ultimately never came in the entirety of the 90 min. FC Dallas’ Jesus Ferreira, who in different spurts has been the USMNT starting striker, got the start tonight and it must be said Nashville’s centre-backs Lukas MacNaughton & Josh Bauer did a tremendous job not allowing Ferreira to get a single shot on target in the entire match.


 Nashville didn’t control the bulk of the possession like they did this past Saturday against Chicago. However, very similarly to the game from the weekend it never did feel like Dallas was going to get one goal much less two after Alex Muyl’s thunder strike that doubled Nashville’s lead. It seems as though the defensive side of the game that let Nashville down numerous times last season with just silly errors have been corrected by Smith and the coaching staff


 With the win against FC Dallas, Nashville SC will look forward to the Round of 16 draw that will take place Thurday, May 10th at 2 PM. As things stand only one non-MLS team remains in the Round of 16 (Birmingham).


Patton Cook / WNSR - Nashville SC Columnist 



Nashville SC dominates Atlanta United 3-1 in best performance of the season

Atlanta United got to experience Saturday afternoon just how much of an influence Hany Mukhtar has been for Nashville SC.

    In Nashville’s 3-1 home win against Atlanta at Geodis Park, Hany Mukhtar only came away with two assists, but he was fundamental in all three goals. After his two assists Saturday, he is now at three goals and five assist, which is the best start to any season of his career.

    Nashville SC coach Gary Smith started the match with an unchanged lineup from last weekend’s match versus LAFC, which is understandable after holding the MLS defending champion to a 1-1 draw.

It does bring up the question about where Sean Davis has been the last two games after starting eight straight matches. Smith provided an update on the midfielder after the match saying, “He’s had a slight hamstring problem and has a chance to be with the group for Chicago.”

Like Nashville, Atlanta is also missing some key pieces without veteran goalkeeper, Brad Guzan for a few weeks and is now on their third string goalkeeper, Clement Diop. Atlanta United was also without striker Georgios Giakoumakis, and were forced to start Machop Chol, who started his first MLS match in a position he’s never started in his professional career.

            Nashville did what it does best for the majority of the first 45 minutes, and that is to frustrate the opposition when it comes to big chances. For instance, the first and only shot on target in the first half came in the 25th minute from a tame long shot from Atlanta’s midfielder Matheus Rossetto. Nashville SC didn’t have an abundance of big chances, either, but punished its rivals when getting the chance. The first goal came from two of Nashville’s star players, Mukhtar and Walker Zimmerman. Mukhtar swings one in the cross from only the second corner of the game, while Zimmerman flicks it into a dangerous area for Fafa Picault to get the easiest goal of his career.

            The message coming out of the dressing room from Smith was to strike first. Last week, he felt LAFC landed that first strike of the second half and that was the difference between all three points. Nashville did exactly that and it came from Mukhtar who made a brilliant run on the left cutting in and out and firing a low shot which Clement Diop got down to his left well, but the ball spilled out for Nashville’s striker Teal Bunbury.

    However, Atlanta would ultimately respond after winning a penalty from a clumsy challenge from Dax McCarty. Atlanta’s star player, Thiago Almada, who featured for Argentina in the World Cup, scored Atlanta’s lone goal of the match. This made the last 20 minutes stressful for the fans attending at Geodis Park. Jacob Shaffelburg eliminated all fears with a brilliant injection of pace after Mukhtar plays him in and calmly slots it past Diop.

     Nashville will continue the long homestand Saturday, May 7, as the Chicago Fire visit Geodis Park.



Patton Cook / WNSR - Nashville SC Reporter




Nashville SC scrapes by San Antonio FC in the US Open Cup

Nashville SC opened up their US Open Cup campaign against no easy opponent, and as Gary Smith expected, it turned into quite the battle. The game was deadlocked for 71 of the 90 minutes until San Antonio defender, Shannon Gomez, got his pocket picked by Nashville attacker, Fafa Picault, who squared it across to Ethan Zubak who scored the match-winner. In a season for Nashville that has included their fair share of unlucky breaks, they created some luck via that forced turnover by Fafa Picault.


            As you would expect for a team that was playing its second game in 72 hours, rotation was needed for “The Boys in Gold”. Wednesday’s starting XI only included two players (Alex Muyl & Jack Maher) from Saturday night’s draw against LAFC. With all the changes, chemistry on the field was seemingly an issue. For a team that already struggles in the attacking half, having very little attacking chemistry tonight proved difficult as they only forced two shots on goal. However, Gary Smith won’t mind at all as his side advances to the Round of 32.


            It must be said for Nashville that with the changes they had, their major contributors got some much-needed rest tonight. Nashville’s seasoned veterans, Hany Mukhtar, Dax McCarty, Walker Zimmerman (who may not have dressed anyway as he is in serious doubt for Saturday’s match with a groin injury), and Joe Willis all did not dress. With these important players not even making the bench tonight, Nashville still coming away with a victory in regulation is something the team will be more than happy with. If Nashville wants to go far in the US Open Cup, they will have to repeat what they did tonight by continuing to use their squad depth. As for their Eastern Conference rival Atlanta United, they conceded a stoppage-time penalty and eventually lost against Memphis 901 who has only won one game in their young season in the USL. All that to say, although it wasn’t flashy and a 10/10 type performance, the name of the game in these knockout games is simply survive and advance.


            Nashville will finish their three games in seven days this Saturday afternoon when they welcome Atlanta United to Geodis Park.



Patton Cook / WNSR Nashville SC Reporter 


Nashville SC collects a valuable point against unbeaten LAFC

Nashville SC faced off against one of the best teams MLS has to offer, LAFC, and showed they have what it takes to go toe to toe with the top teams in Major League Soccer. The two teams shared a point after quite an entertaining game which had Hany Mukhtar scoring his third goal of the season in the first half and Denis Bouanga for LAFC grabbing the game tying goal in the second.


The first half can really be split up into three different spells. For the around the first 20 minutes, Nashville SC had the majority of the possession, but nothing concrete in terms of chances. The next 10 minutes saw LAFC really finding their groove in the game with a high press that seemed to overwhelm Nashville. In the last 10 minutes of the first half, Nashville really kicked it into gear and was solely led by their starman, Hany Mukhtar. The ball somehow found Mukhtar after it deflected into his path right at the six yard box and he slotted it home.


The big question heading into the second 45 was how was Gary Smith’s side going to setup. They set up knowing that if they wanted to win the game, one goal was not going to be enough, and it certainly wasn’t. They seemed more open at the back compared to the first half due in large part to Nashville’s star studded defender, Walker Zimmerman, being subbed in the 55th min. This situation will definitely be closely monitored as Gary Smith mentioned after the match that Zimmerman felt a bit of discomfort in the locker room at the halftime break. Knowing Zimmerman played 90 minutes less than 72 hours before for the USMNT, this isn’t the most shocking injury. LA finally found the back of the net thanks to their striker Denis Bouanga as he rifled one home from outside the 18 yard box. It seemed after that goal and the substitution of Walker Zimmerman, Nashville was more than happy to grind out a draw against LA.


Nashville will be back in action and at home twice over the next seven days as they take on San Antonio FC on Wednesday in the US Open Cup and their rival Atlanta United at home on Saturday.



Patton Cook / WNSR Nashville SC Reporter 

Twitter: Patton_Cook

Nashville SC held scoreless against Toronto FC after a 0-0 draw

Nashville and Toronto spent 90+ plus minutes looking for an all important goal that more than likely would’ve been enough, however, that goal never came. Although the game didn’t have a ton of opportunities, it gave Joe Willis his 5th cleansheet of the season.


          Nashville had an unchanged lineup as you would expect coming of a nice 2-0 win against Orlando last week. The lineup featured Gudoy and Davis in midfield for Gary Smith’s side as well as an attacking duo featuring Hany Mukthar alongside CJ Sapong that never could get firing like they did against Orlando. Hany had two shots that forced saves out of Toronto and US Men’s National team goalkeeper Sean Johnson. Nothing that would be seen as a “big chance,” but rather a few half chances for Nashville’s star man.


          The positive storyline coming out of this game without a doubt was the fan voted man of the match, Joe Willis. Willis who only had to make 3 saves in the game, one that included a big 1v1 save in the 73rd minute. Joe Willis has had a fantastic start to season and leads the league in goals conceded and save percentage at 92.3%. Thanks in large part to Willis in goal, Nashville currently sits fifth in the Eastern Conference,


          The negative storyline coming out of course is going to be the lack of goals once again for Gary Smith’s side. Unlike the last home match, Gary Smith’s side didn’t control much of the possession, only getting 40% throughout the entire match. Nashville currently sits on 6 goals scored after 7 games which is in the bottom half among the other MLS teams.


The next match for The Boys in Gold has them going to the Big Apple to play New York City FC. A venue that is unlike many in the world where the game will be played at Citi Field Stadium which is of course the home of the New York Mets. Nashville kicked the season off beating New York FC 2-0 back in February.




Written by: Patton Cook / WNSR Nashville SC Reporter 

Twitter: @Patton_Cook 

Nashville SC's attacking threat comes up short again

FC Cincinnati came into Geodis Park looking for their first ever win against Nashville SC in the MLS and did so courtesy of a 48th minute goal from attacker Brandon Vazquez.  His 1st goal of the season proved to be enough against the lackluster Nashville SC attack. 


As far as the 1st half went, Nashville just edged out having the majority of possesion, controlling the ball nearly 55% of the time. However, arguably the best chance of the half goes to FC Cincinatti with Brenner going through 1 on 1 in the 12th minute. This chance was halted by Nashville’s goalkeeper, Joe Willis, who was quick off of his line to deny the Brazilian. Chances for Nashville mainly came from their star man, Hany Mukhtar, which comes to no surprise. He was dangerous in the middle of the field, but also had some fantastic set-pieces as well. For Cincinnati, it was not quantity of their possession, but rather the quality of their play with quick one two’s cutting through Nashville’s midfield and defense. 


Cincy came out strong to start the 2nd half with numerous chances to trouble Joe Willis. One of these troubles included the 48th minute rebound goal from Brandon Vazquez who took advantage of Nashville’s Shaq Moore being caught of out position. In an attempt to bring a spark to the midfield after the goal, Nashville subbed Dax McCarty off for Anibal Godoy in the 61st minute. McCarty who received his 399th start in the MLS was visibly not pleased with the decision to be taken off. 


Nashville’s only serious chance came from a penalty shout in the 71st minute when Hany Mukhtar was bundled over after he got goal side of the defender. From the eyes of the referee, he didn’t see enough to give Nashville the penalty. Cincinnati seemed to be able to slow the entire second half down to where Nashville could never find an attacking momentum. NSC had most of the possesion, but when it came time for that line-breaking pass, the Boys in Gold couldn’t supply it.


Nashville after losing their second scoreless game will head down to Orlando City next Saturday to face the team that crushed their US Open Cup dreams last June when the match was forced to penalty kicks. Cincinnati will be back at home next Saturday as Inter Miami comes to town with their star studded lineup. 



Written by: Patton Cook / WNSR Nashville SC Reporter

Twitter: @Patton_Cook



2023-05 | 2023-04 | 2023-03

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