Three takeaways from Nashville SC's loss to the Columbus Crew
Nashville SC was never expected to win in Columbus on Saturday against the best team in the Eastern Conference. However, Gary Smith's team dominated long stretches of the match, controlled the tempo and possession, and put the pressure on the Columbus Crew.
Little chances here and there throughout the 90 minutes led to the goals winning goals from Pedro Santos in the 50th minute and a last-minute stat-padder from Gyasi Zardes.
Here are my three takeaways from the match.
The scoreline is harsh on Nashville
For an expansion team taking on the league leaders in points and goals, this was a solid effort both in possession and on defense. Nashville has now played seven of its 11 MLS matches on the road and once again, they were in the match and forced Columbus out of their comfort zone.
Even though they are considered the underdogs and have had to travel so much in their inaugural season, taking 12 points from the 11 is not a bad mark. Unlike the losses at Atlanta or Orlando City, this game's scoreline was unfair to the visitors.
NSC outshot the conference leaders 15-8 and had nearly 60 percent of the possession, their best mark this season. Another stat that stands out to me is that NSC created six chances to Columbus' 10.
It took the Crew 50 minutes to breakdown the defense for a great opening goal and they scored the second in the dying minutes with the result already decided.
Hit the target!
A constant this season has been Nashville's ability to work themselves into a scoring opportunity with great passing and movement to then completely miss the target with a shot inside or just outside of the penalty box.
Of those 15 shots Nashville attempted, just two hit the target! Gary Smith made mention of the issue in his post-match Zoom conference, telling the media, “The only thing that I’d be critical of our players is that out of our 15 shots, only two hit the target… and of course, the mistake that lead to the first goal. The only criticism I have of [Badji] or any of the guys getting into those areas is that we’re just not making the goalkeeper work enough.”
The Boys in Gold sure are missing Randall Leal on the right-wing and could use that boost from Jhonder Cadiz when he is finally able to complete his move from SL Benfica on loan.
Bounce back at home
Nashville is back to a mid-week tilt when they host DC United on Wednesday and they will then host Houston Dynamo over the weekend also at Nissan Stadium.
Hopefully the likes of Leal, David Accam, and Abu Danladi get healthy over the next week and can at least come off the bench for some minutes in one of these matches. Quite simply, there is not enough depth to combat all these injuries Smith's team is dealing with.
Results will be hard to come by, but this team can grind out a result by relying on their defense and counter attack.