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