NASHVILLE, TN - In an exciting affair at First Tennessee Park the Boys in Gold found victory for the first time over a team that has proven to be a tricky opponent despite their respective places in the standings. Charleston came to Nashville with two victories over NSC already this season (one of those in Open Cup play).
Things appeared to be following that same old script at the end of the first half. Despite having the edge in possession, shots and shots on goal NSC trailed 1-0 after Kotaro Higashi split Ockford and Tribbett and slotted in the first goal of the evening. Nashville would’ve felt hard done going into the half after having clear cut chances from Mensah and Lancaster go just wide of the post, with Kuzminsky coming up with a few good saves as well.
Gary Smith made no adjustments at the half, and honestly had no need to. NSC had been on the front foot the majority of the game, and picked up right where they left off. Following plenty of opportunities inside the Charleston box, Ropapa Mensah finally found pay dirt in the 57th minute when he headed in a Darnell King pass to equalize. Nashville maintained their assertiveness keeping the majority of the ball and almost all of the meaningful possession in the final third. Smith opted for dual substitutions in the 72nd minute bringing on Washington for Davis, and Belmar for Lancaster. Lebo Moloto had what was his best attempt on net in the 81st minute with a strong low effort that just slipped under Kuzminksy’s right hand, however the keeper did just enough to push the attempt wide of net. The 83rd minute saw NSC’s last substitution bringing on Alan Winn for Darnell King. Following the script from the first half, Charleston was dangerous on a counter in the 85th minute where a ball fell to Dante Marini who’s well taken attempt was pushed away by a diving Matt Pickens save. Another controversial call went against NSC as regular time expired. Lebo Moloto was brought down in the box with an elbow (no call) and took a few seconds to find his feet, after a scramble at the top of the box a Charleston defender attempted to clear the danger but only managed to play the ball right to the Nashville #10. Moloto played around Kuzminsky, and scored what he and the First Tennessee Park crowd thought was a last minute winner. Not so fast: The line judge ruled Lebo to be in an offside position, despite the ball being played to him from a Charleston player. I think it’s fair to say that everyone can be forgiven for thinking “not again” after the unjust red card issued to Lasso Wednesday evening. But just like last year against Cincinnati, Bolu Akinyode was there to save the day. In the last minute of added time, he gathered the ball at the top of the box, turned and managed a last gasp attempt on frame that deflected to beat the keeper. There is an old adage that says “the truth will out” or as we’ve seen on twitter and reddit tonight more plainly put “ball don’t lie”. That hit home tonight as Nashville secured a desperately needed three points.
Story of the evening: Gary Smith made six changes to the side tonight (some forced through suspension and injury) and got absolutely massive performances. He mentioned King, Davis and Lancaster specifically in his presser but I think you have to include Bourgeois and Lagrassa returning from injury in there as well. It was simply an absolutely massive performance from guys who haven’t necessarily been first choice all year long.
For now, the Boys In Gold get a much needed breather before heading out on the road.