MATTHEWS, NC - Nashville SC extended their unbeaten streak to six matches against Charlotte Independence, catalyzed by a brace from striker Daniel Ríos.
Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith kept his lineup straightforward, brining back midfielder Matt LaGrassa for his first appearance since picking up an injury in Louisville over a month ago. Defender Ken Tribbett kept his place in midfielder, forcing Bolu Akinyode, a more natural no. 6, to the bench.
Nashville took the match to Charlotte from the outset, testing keeper Brandon Miller twice before Daniel Rios opened the scoring in the seventh minute. Lebo Moloto took a short corner to Taylor Washington, who played a quick one-two with the no. 10 before playing Rios in on goal. The striker blasted home from eight yards out for his 16th strike of the season.
Nashville continued to attack, coming close to adding a second on several occasions, but it was Charlotte who got on the board next. Captain Enzo Martinez picked up a loose ball on the edge of the box and hit a low drive to the far post past a stranded Matt Pickens. It was Charlotte's first shot of the match, and the first goal Nashville had conceded in 489 minutes.
After the break, however, it was all Nashville. In the 54th minutes, winger Alan Winn drew a penalty kick for Ríos to convert. It was the striker's 17th goal of the campaign, keeping him in touching distance of Solomon Asante for the USL Golden Boot.
Kharlton Belmar added a third in the 60th minute. The winger collected a ball near the left touchline and cut inside on his favored right foot, rifling a low shot past an outstretched Miller to the far post.
After Belmar's goal, Nashville went into cruise control. The Boys in Gold continued to push for another goal, but were able to move the ball around a lackluster Charlotte side, and were hardly tested. Forward Cameron Lancaster made his first appearance after injury in July, replacing Daniel Ríos for a brief cameo. It's a welcome return for Nashville, who have a quick turnaround before welcoming first-placed New York Red Bulls II to First Tennessee Park on Wednesday night.