On yet another cold, rainy night, Nashville opened their 2019 campaign with a win, thanks to goals from new signings Cameron Lancaster and Daniel Ríos.
Gary Smith sent out his side in a 4-2-3-1 that surprisingly saw Lancaster play on the right. Lebo Moloto sat underneath Ríos and moved the ball well, dictating a lot of Nashville's play in the first half.
Moloto got on the end of Nashville's first real chance, getting on the end of a Kosuke Kimura pass, beating a defender and the goalkeeper before somehow missing an open goal from two yards out. The only potential excuse could be the wet surface, but in reality that's a chance that should never be missed at this level.
That would be Nashville's only significant chance of the first half, taking nine shots but unable to put one on target. Kharlton Belmar had some fantastic moments on the wing, providing Nashville's only consistent source of danger. Nashville finished the half with 64 percent of the possession, and were the better side, but lacked any real ideas in the final third.
The second half saw Lancaster move inside and take up a position much closer to Ríos. The tactical switch from Smith payed off, with the two strikers linking a little more effectively and Moloto finding pockets of space to drift into.
In the 58th minute, Nashville finally got on the board. Moloto swung in a corner kick from the left side, and Lancaster flicked a looping header towards goal. Loudoun goalie Calle Brown was out of position and flapped at the shot, but was unable to keep it from going in off the underside of the bar.
Three minutes later, Daniel Ríos added a second. Brown flapped at a cross from Taylor Washington, and Ríos smashed the rebound home with authority, giving the Boys In Gold a 2-0 lead.
The game calmed down a bit after the two goals in quick succession, with Smith putting on Justin Davis to help shore up the three points. Tucker Hume replaced Ríos late in the match, and had a half chance to add a third, but put his shot just over the bar. Matt Pickens was called on to make a couple saves, and did well to parry them wide, but overall was relatively untested on the night.
They may not have put on the attacking masterclass some were looking for, but the Boys In Gold started off 2019 with a solid win. They were organized, hard to beat, and did manage to create several scoring chances. While both goals were partially due to 'keeper error, those were the types of chances Nashville could never manage to score last year. Chemistry in the final third takes time to build, and as these players see more time together, the attacking prowess will come.
“You look at the schedule with two games at home, certainly the first game you want to make a bit of an impression," said Gary Smith. "I certainly want to make this place a difficult place for other teams to play, to not look forward to coming here and hopefully, slowly but surely, we can make our home field a bit of a graveyard for other teams.”
On a night when other Eastern Conference favorites dropped points, it was a good enough performance to secure the win. Next up, Nashville take on St. Louis FC, who just knocked off Indy Eleven. All signs point to an exciting match that could have serious implications for the rest of the season.