By Ben Wright (@benwright), editor.
BRADENTON, FL - Nashville SC found the goal quickly on Sunday and never let up, cruising to a 4-1 win over Louisville City in their third preseason match of 2020.
The core of the first choice group remained largely unchanged, with a few new faces brought in. Joe Willis was rested, giving Adrián Zendejas his first start of the preseason. Daniel Ríos started at forward with Dominique Badji nursing a sore ankle, and Hany Mukhtar was given the day off, giving Derrick Jones a chance to start at 10.
Randall Leal kept up his good run of form, opening the scoring after just three minutes. Ríos added another in the 10th minute, taking a touch to control a cross from Alan Winn before burying his first goal of the year.
"After Thursday's game, a lot of the emphasis was on starting the game a bit sharper, trying to have a little more focus and management about how we manage the first 10 mintutes," said head coach Gary Smith. "We had some really bright moments in the first period. Randall's goal gets us off on a very positive footing, quickly followed by Daniel's goal... They're a very good side in similar position to us in preseason."
After a strong start out the gates, Nashville went into the break up 2-1 after Louisville's Abdou Thiam pulled a goal back. As has been the practice with every preseason match so far, Smith rolled out a completely new team to start the second half.
SuperDraft pick Elliot Panicco got his first taste of action in goal, but it was Alistair Johnston who made the biggest impact, winning a penalty kick for David Accam to convert in the 66th minute. Nashville added a fourth through Abu Danladi, who took his space well before ripping a strike from distance off the post and in.
Smith praised Daniel Ríos after the match, pointing out the different qualities he brings. "I thought he fit in very nicely with what we can class as the first group at this point," said Smith. "If you look at the forwards we have, they've all got different qualities, but good qualities. You see Daniel's interaction and link play and movement... It was nice to see Daniel as part of that starting group. Very pleased with his goal, and there were some very nice and bright moments from him."
The victory was Nashville's first of the 2020 preseason. They're back in action against MLS opposition on Wednesday evening, taking on Thierry Henry's Montreal Impact at 6PM central at Al Lang Stadium.