Updated: Jun 17, 2019
HARTFORD, CT - Nashville SC extended their unbeaten streak to six matches in a row with a thrilling 3-2 win over an upstart Hartford Athletic side. After having never come back from a losing position in their previous 48 matches, Nashville have done it twice in two weeks, coming back from 2-1 down to secure three points.
With Bradley Bourgeois suspended and Ken Tribbett injured, head coach Gary Smith started Darnell King (normally an attacking fullback) on the right of a back three. Ropapa Mensah got his third consecutive start after having a hand in all four goals last week, and the young attacker was bright once again.
The match was frenetic from the start. Hartford's Mads Jørgensen thumped the bar with a dipping free kick from 30 yards, and King denied the home side a goal with a fantastic goal-line clearance to keep the home side off the board.
Nashville got on the scoresheet first. Mensah capitalized on an errant pass from keeper Frederik Due, and played the ball across to Daniel Ríos, who hit a low shot into a gaping net. It was the striker's ninth goal of the season, taking him to the top of the Eastern conference scoring charts.
Nashville's lead was short lived, however. Hartford equalized just 81 seconds later, as Raymond Lee's cross found the head of an unmarked Sebastian Dalgaard in the box. The Boys In Gold pushed hard for the remainder of the half, but couldn't find a goal, despite taking twice the amount of shots as Hartford.
Hartford kept the momentum going in the second half. After some good buildup play in the final third, referee Luis Arroyo whistled for a handball on Justin Davis after the defender went down for a sliding challenge.
It was a really harsh penalty, as the ball appeared to hit Davis in the chest, but Matt Pickens made up for the call with a strong save to deny Angulo from 12 yards. Hartford played the resulting corner kick short, hitting a cross from midfield into the box. Despite his previous heroics, Pickens could do nothing to stop de Wit's header, and was frozen as the ball looped over his head into the far side of the goal.
Yet again, the lead didn't last long. Nashville came back to equalize three minutes later through Lebo Moloto, who hit a left footed shot on a rope to the far post after Mensah's effort was blocked.
Nashville continued to create chances, with Ríos, Mensah and Davis all denied from close range. In the 85th minute, though, Cameron Lancaster, on the pitch for just 17 minutes, put the Boys In Gold ahead with an absolute screamer from 30 yards out. The striker controlled a pass from Davis before ripping his shot off the underside of the bar. It was a spectacular effort to beat Due, who put in an outstanding performance to limit Nashville to just three goals.
It was an impressive performance from Hartford, who have really turned their season around after a horrible start to the year. However, Nashville's superior quality shone thrown, as the Boys In Gold climbed to third in the East, just two points behind Tampa Bay. They'll return home to take on 7th place Ottawa Fury next Saturday at First Tennessee Park.
Quotes obtained from Nashville SC's press release
GARY SMITH (Head Coach)
On another comeback win: “This Hartford group have been getting better and better. They’ve had three terrific results here in the last three games against sides that are in the top 6, and this was never, ever going to be an easy game. To go in front, but to squander the lead as quickly as we did caused some frustration and disappointment. I honestly felt that we created enough to get something out of the game. You don’t always get something, but today it’s taken a very, very special strike at the end there to win us all three points. I’m extremely delighted that three out of the front four have scored and Ropapa to have been the supplier for one of those goals. It’s been a terrific output from the frontline. Yes, there were times I felt we maybe wouldn’t get it done, but I was always excited by the fact we were creating good chances.”
On the team taking 32 shots in the match: “I still think there are, being ultra-critical, too many times where we miss the target. It certainly felt as if it wasn’t enough. In saying that, I won’t get too bent out of shape having won the game and coming from behind in the second half against a side that is getting better and better. I’ll bet you come the second half of the season, this will be an extremely difficult place to come and play. To have come here and won the game, I am very pleased.”
On Cameron Lancaster’s match-winner: “It is all about getting a run of games, or minutes, and staying healthy. He’s had a very frustrating time and it’s great to see him back on the field. That’s now two in two games. Even in that short 20-25 minute window, we can see the real intensity of his place in and around the penalty area. The free kick, he was slightly offside for another opportunity, he really could have had a couple of goals barring some terrific goalkeeping. In the end, the strike to win the game is worth of winning any game. I am so pleased.”
On Matt Pickens penalty save: “At 1-1, the penalty save, I thought, was huge. Sadly, we were unable to keep our goal intact from the ensuring corner, which again, something we can look at in the week. To come up big on the penalty was another facet and factor in us winning the game. Players take a lot of strength from seeing others around them doing their job, coming up in the big moments with something that could possibly win the game. Cameron [Lancaster] has done it on one end. Matt [Pickens] should have been the catalyst to do it on the other end. It was a pretty overwhelming performance in terms of possession and opportunities. It ended up being tight, when really I felt we should have made it a little bit easier for ourselves. Still a big win.”
On five road wins already this season: “I can’t think of an away game that’s easy. Even sides that might be in difficult form, you might find that their facilities are not up to scratch. You find that you might run into [MLS] 2 teams when they have a lot of bodies coming down [from MLS]. No road game is easy. I thought our performance today was deserving of a win. Sadly, you don’t always get what you deserve. [Cameron Lancaster] has given us a very happy and joyous journey home.”
CAMERON LANCASTER (Forward)
On his goal in the second half: “I came in, and I was able to make an impact. I saw a little bit of space in front of the centerbacks and thought that I perhaps would be able to get the ball through and test the keeper.”
On the goal coming after a good opportunity off a free kick: “This keeper made an unbelievable save, because even though I stroked it nicely and it was turf, he was able to have an unbelievable save. Like I said, I just wanted to get some space and get my shot off, and that’s what I did.”
On returning from injury and scoring his second goal coming in as a sub: “After being out injured, it’s always nice to hit the ground running, get some goals in the bones, and get the confidence up. I’m happy I was able to come on, get a goal and help the team get three points.”
On scoring on Father’s Day, knowing he’ll be a dad soon: “Yes, [it was special]. Now that I know I am going to be father, scoring felt really good.”
On returning to play at home after five wins on the road: “I’m sure the fans have been wanting a game at home for quite some time, so it will be good to show up there, give them a show, and hopefully get another win.”
LEBO MOLOTO (Midfielder)
On scoring and getting a win: “It feels good. I still think that being an attacking midfielder, I need to materialize on the four or so chances I get. I did that today. I had a couple of chances and managed to score the one that helped us tie the game. It’s a great feeling when you’re playing away and turn up with a win.”
On the key to a record five-road win run: “We have a strong group of guys and have added up a couple of players who we can interchange playing at home and away. There’s been a little bit of rotation. We managed to play well overall. We told ourselves that it doesn’t matter if we are up [or down] 2-1, and we told ourselves that it doesn’t matter if we are playing at home or away. That’s been pretty good in terms of confidence.”
On back-to-back comeback victories: “It shows that we are very resilient, that our guys are strong mentally. I think that we could have still done better with both goals, we scored one, and they scored back a few seconds later. At the end of the day, it’s always good to come away and get three points.”
On scoring on Father’s Day being a dad: “It is special. I remember last year I scored on Mother’s Day. This year it’s on Father’s Day. I’d be happy if it were Mother’s Day or Father’s Day every weekend. Maybe that way I would bang goals every weekend.”
MATT PICKENS (Goalkeeper)
On stopping the penalty: “I tried to go to one side, and when he didn’t go to that one side, I tried to react and keep the ball out of the net, and that’s basically it. Luckily, I was kind of in the air, and my foot was in a good position, so I just tried to get something on it.”
On whether experience increases his confidence in stopping penalty kicks: “For sure. You just try to keep the ball out of the net. That’s as simple as I can put it.”