In what was effectively the match that would decide the group winner in the Leagues Cup, Nashville SC’s defensive backline let down their attackers after a 4-3 loss to Toluca. Normally when a Gary Smith led team scores three goals, the odds of them losing the match are slim to none. Thursday night was not one of those nights.
Nashville SC's approach to starting Thursday night’s match against Toluca was to bring all the attacking threats from the jump. Nashville SC’s Manager, Gary Smith, started Fafa Picault, Jacob Shaffelburg, and of course, Hany Mukhtar from the start. This gave Nashville a very attack-minded approach to the match, but also left them with not much threat coming off the bench other than a struggling Teal Bunbury. This was almost the complete opposite approach to how Smith handled the match against Colorado on Sunday night.
The first half on a warm night definitely had plenty of fireworks. A five-goal half between the two teams and there easily could have been more. Nashville SC’s Walker Zimmerman set the pace in the third minute when the first corner of the match broke free from his man and he glanced a beautiful header into the back of the net. Toluca would go on to tie the match in the 27th minute with Toluca’s Marcel Ruiz's first of two goals in the game. Nashville SC’s Fafa Picault would get what he thought to be a crucial goal right before the half after a fantastic run behind Toluca’s backline. The trend for chaotic defending would not change when Toluca would once again tie the match courtesy of another Ruiz goal. To top it all off, the LIGA MX side would be gifted a penalty after Alex Muyl was called for a handball inside the box and none other than Toluca’s goalkeeper Tiago Volpi would blast home the penalty kick. After all that, Toluca had a 3-2 lead heading into the break.
All the pressure was certainly on Nashville SC heading into the break, and it certainly didn’t start how they planned. After more brilliant attacking plays off of Toluca’s left flank, Robert Morales finds a patch of space inside the box to slot home the goal that made it 4-2 in the 67th minute. The night wouldn’t end there at least for the home side as substitute Josh Buaer would score Nashville’s third goal which put slight pressure on Toluca to see the match out on top. Bauer’s goal pushed Nashville’s goal differential to zero which depending on how Toluca’s match against Colorado goes on Monday night it could be just enough to push Nashville through to the group stages.
Even though the disappointing result on the field a positive for Nashville SC fans was the unveiling of Nashville’s third designated player, Sam Surridge. After a night that saw Teal Bunbury get sent off after offering very little offensively, it is clear just how badly Nashville needs a striker. Bunbury has certainly had his positive moments for Nashville but those days look to be over. Surridge a player that comes from Nottingham Forest in England will have a lot of pressure on his shoulders to contribute early. However, the 24-year-old certainly is aware and ready for the challenge. No word on when he will officially be able to play for NSC because of a Visa issue but his debut doesn’t seem too far away.
Patton Cook / WNSR Columnist
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