For the third straight match, Nashville won 2-0, this time defeating Swope Park Rangers on the road. Let's take a closer look at the result.
Nashville has shown a consistent ability to win without out-possessing their opponents. That ability was on display yet again in Kansas City.
Nashville did most of their damage in the first half, with their only shot of the second half being Daniel Ríos's goal. Meanwhile, Nashville's defense gave Swope Park nothing, limiting them to just five total shots and none on target.
Nashville continues to out-perform their expected goals, largely because of Daniel Ríos, whose 29% conversion rate and 14 goals lead the team. Nashville is beating their xG by 3.63 goals, a marked improvement from last season.
Midfielder Lebo Moloto has been in great form the last few weeks, and he continued his hot streak against his former team, scoring a goal and assisting another. Moloto touched the ball 69 times, more than any other Nashville attacking player. More important was where Moloto was able to get on the ball, finding plenty of space in the final third.
Moloto picked up the ball 13 times in Zone 14, the central area just outside the penalty area. His ability to drift into space and find pockets to receive the ball opened up the game for Nashville, and having runners like Winn, Belmar and Ríos around him gives him plenty of passing options in the final third.
That's a very productive outing for the no. 10.
GOING FOR THE KILL
Nashville's second goal was a great example of capitalizing on defensive mistakes and making quick passes towards goal.
Above is the summary of the play, and you can see how quickly the goal came together. Alan Winn did really well to win the ball from Alexsander and play an aggressive pass to Moloto, who didn't run towards goal, but drifted back into a pocket of space just outside the box.
When Winn won the ball back, Nashville had a significant disadvantage in terms of numbers. However, Nashville saw that Swope Park was on the back foot and went for the kill, setting up the crucial goal in just two passes.
Nashville had three attackers going up against eight Rangers defenders, but through decisive passing and smart off-the-ball movement, they were able to take advantage of a turnover in the attacking half and secure the result.
Gary Smith again set up his team in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but from the start they defended in a 4-4-2, sitting in two banks of four to deny Swope Park any space in the final third.
Moloto and Ríos pushed high to pressure the centerbacks, with the midfield and defensive lines playing in compact banks to take away space for Swope Park's attackers.
To close out the game, Smith once again brought on Ken Tribbett (normally a centerback) to play as the number 6, playing as a shield in front of the defense with Michael Reed and Bolu Akinyode in front of him.
That's a really formidable option to close out a result late in the match, and will likely be a frequently used tactic in Nashville's playoff run.
On a three match unbeaten streak, Nashville are finally starting to look like the team they were expected to be before the season. The additions of Forrest Lasso and Jimmy Ockford in the back have fixed a lot of their defensive issues. Daniel Ríos has been arguably the best attacker in USL this season. And Lebo Moloto is finding his form as the main creator behind the strikers. If Nashville can continue this trajectory, they'll be in good shape.