Fresh off the bye week, Nashville went to Ontario and put in their best attacking performance to date in a 3-0 win against the Ottawa Fury.
For this first time this season, Gary Smith utilized a two-striker system. With Cameron Lancaster unavailable with a hamstring injury, Tucker Hume got his first start of the year against his former club. Lebo Moloto played on the left side with Matt LaGrassa and Michael Reed in central midfield. Connor Sparrow got his second straight start in goal, preferred to veteran Matt Pickens.
Nashville started the game slowly, with only 25% possession through the first 20 minutes and no real chances in the first 30. However, the Boys In Gold took the lead after 33 minutes, when Liam Doyle took a free kick quickly, playing Daniel Ríos through on goal. The Mexican striker controlled the ball well, before finishing with a chip over David Monsalve.
Nashville went into the half with a 0-1 lead and a 1-5 shot advantage, despite only controlling 34% of possession.
After the break, Nashville looked far more assertive. They controlled the ball much better in the final third, with Moloto, Ríos and Belmar linking up well. Belmar came close to doubling the lead, hitting the bar with a rocket of a shot in the 64th minute. Three minutes later, Tucker Hume added a second, finishing well from a tight angle with his weaker left foot.
13 minutes later, Ríos secured the win, burying a rebound after Monsalve blocked a strong shot from Belmar. It was the striker's 4th goal of the season, tying him for second in the USL Golden Boot race.
Nashville had a couple more chances to add to their lead, including a brilliant effort from Ropapa Mensah that somehow stayed out after hitting both posts. The game finished 0-3, and Nashville left Ottawa with three points and their best attacking performance of the young season. The win pushes Nashville into a three-way tie for 3rd place ahead of the rest of the weekend's action, with seven points after four games.
Head coach Gary Smith
On the biggest road win in club history: “As I said to the group afterwards, we didn’t give up many opportunities for them, and in the meantime, got some for us. It’s always a difficult journey [to Ottawa], a difficult surface to play and Ottawa is difficult defensively. It was more important for me to see what we worked on this week show itself on the pitch, and for the most part, it did.”
On what Ríos has provided so far this season: “He’s certainly filled that void of a marksman. In terms of what and how we are creating, certainly in the first three games, we looked at that and felt we could improve. Today, we have seen that. When you are playing two out-and-out strikers, it gives those providers more to find in front of goal. Daniel has been a good target for us this year.”
On starting the game in the 4-4-2 formation: “The simple fact is we have lacked a cutting edge in goal-scoring situations. To play two up there has been a thought on my mind all season, and the break gave us a chance to look at it more in depth. When you look at the players that we have when fit and available, there is a real multitude of riches up front. We have Daniel who has been excellent, [Cameron] Lancaster who is out, Tucker [Hume] gets his first start and scores. Ropapa [Mensah] looked really purposeful in his minutes today. Even Kharlton [Belmar] could play up top. We have really exciting bodies that can fill those forward spots. I thought once we worked out the surface, had a look at them, and grew into the game, we got better and better. Just before Daniel scored, we should have had a penalty as well. Although they controlled the majority of possession, we were a much, much greater goal threat as it got going.”
On Tucker Hume: “Like all good forwards, he gets himself in good areas. He’s not had many sights of goal, and should have earned the first opportunity at goal with a penalty. What he does is sometimes immeasurable. He attracts people. He is a magnet for confrontation. He’s very different than anything we have with his size and ability in the air.”
On the upcoming home match vs Memphis 901 FC: “We have had two weeks to try and prepare for this game. I think we all had a bit of a sour taste in our mouth from last year’s game in Ottawa. We will get a feel this week for the rivalry and what the fans are thinking. I am sure Memphis will want to get out of [First Tennessee Park] with something. While some of their displays have been encouraging, it takes time to gel as a new group as we rightly found out last season.”
On his run of form: “I think it’s early in the season. I think I can improve and can be better. Having more game time and more minutes, it will be better for me. I feel like I can score more goals and continue to help the team.
On playing in a two striker system: “Yeah for me, I feel really good playing with Tucker. I have more space up top because its 1 v 1 with the centerbacks rather than 1 v 2 if I am up top alone. I think it’s better for me playing that way.”
On scoring against his former club: “I mean anytime you hit the back of the net, it’s a good feeling. We are glad to come away with the points on the road.”
On getting his first start of the season: “First start of the year, and I just have to play like I know how to play. Put myself in position to score.”
On if the bye week helped the team: “I think it was nice to have that break, to have some time to work on things. To see what went well and what didn’t, and work on what hadn’t worked. It was also nice to have a few days off and recharge the batteries a bit.”