By Ben Wright (@benwright), editor.
TAMPA BAY, FL - Nashville SC got their first taste of action against a fellow MLS side, falling 3-1 to Chicago Fire FC. The Boys In Gold had some positive moments, but were unable to recover from slow starts in both halves.
Head coach Gary Smith made just one change to the side that drew IF Elfsborg 0-0 last week, giving Randall Leal the start on the left after his return from international duty.
Chicago's CJ Sapong opened the scoring, pouncing on a loose ball in the box before calmly slotting past a sprawling Joe Willis.
Elliot Collier added a second for Chicago when his long range effort took a deflection off of Dave Romney past a stranded Willis.
Nashville SC pulled one back just before the break, when Hany Mukhtar played a line-breaking pass into the feet of Randall Leal, whose low, curling effort kissed the snuck just inside the far post for Nashville SC's first goal of 2020.
"It was a difficult goal. Hany was able to find a ball through Chicago to me and I was able to hit it across to the far post for the goal," said Leal. "I feel very happy, but I'm looking forward to scoring a goal in an official match."
"Randall [Leal] has shown already what an immense talent he is," added Gary Smith. The manager praised Leal's creativity and ability on the ball, and noted that while he's featured on the left so far, he's more than capable of playing on the opposite wing or even underneath the striker.
At halftime, Smith made 11 changes. As expected, Nashville's substitutes struggled to get into a rhythm, conceding a penalty kick within a minute of halftime to go down 3-1.
Nashville created a few good chances in the second half, but were unable to narrow the scoreline and the match finished 3-1.
"I'm really classing them as groups one and two at this point," said Smith of the two lineups. "In that second group, I thought Derrick Jones showed very well. Alan Winn looked very bright. Taylor Washington as well, after maybe a slow 10 minutes... There are very much signs of connections throughout the group, and there’s still plenty to work on."
Daniel Ríos, David Accam, and Miguel Nazarit each made their preseason debuts after minor injuries to the first two and visa issues for the latter. "I thought all three of them, Daniel in particular given the amount of time he was on the field, started to show some of the signs we saw last year," said Smith. "Forwards in particular tend to take a little more time to find their scoring boots, that creative appreciation around each other. Daniel had a couple sights of goal. Certainly as we move forward I’d like to see the target being tested. But he’ll be pleased."
Nashville SC have just two days in between matches, taking on USL Championship side Louisville City FC on Sunday at 2pm. Follow @SpeedwaySoc for coverage of the match.