ST. PETERSBURG, FL - Nashville SC survived a second half onslaught to take all three points from Tampa Bay Rowdies and move into second place in the East.
With top scorer Daniel Ríos out for the second consecutive match with a groin injury, head coach Gary Smith again sent out a back three with Cameron Lancaster leading the line.
Nashville started the match off brightly, controlling plenty of possession and moving the ball well in Tampa Bay's half of the pitch. They created several chances, especially through Taylor Washington's overlapping runs on the left, finally taking the lead just before halftime. Lancaster won a free kick just outside Tampa Bay's penalty area. The striker took a low shot under the wall, forcing Andrew McCarthy to parry the ball wide, but Lebo Moloto was there to bury the rebound.
Nashville went into a break with a 1-0 lead, but the Rowdies came out of the half on a tear, peppering Matt Pickens' goal with several attempts. Guenzatti equalized for the home side in the 49th minute after Pickens pushed a rebound from Kwadwo Poku's speculative effort into his path. With things leveled up, Tampa Bay kept pressing for a winner, taking 14 shots in the second half and forcing Pickens into seven saves.
In the 79th minute, though, it was Nashville who found the winner. Bradley Bourgeois chipped a beautiful ball over the top of the defense into the path of substitute Kharlton Belmar. The attacker got in behind the defense and took the shot off the bounce, tucking it just inside the far post. The goal came completely against the run of play for Nashville, and the opportunistic finish gave Nashville a massive lead against one of the best sides in the league.
Tampa Bay continued to bombard Pickens, forcing the veteran keeper into several last-ditch saves, including a clash with Lucky Mkosana that required medical treatment and a clean jersey for Pickens. However, Nashville's defense held up, weathering the storm in Florida to move into second place in the East.
Nashville SC are back on the road next Saturday, traveling to Saint Louis to take on the 11th-placed side.