Prior to Sunday night’s match, Head Coach Gary Smith described Nashville SC’s push for the MLS Cup Playoffs as a “scrap” with its Western Conference competitors.
The Boys in Gold landed a punch in that scrap with a 4-0 victory over FC Dallas at GEODIS Park on Sunday night. The victory propelled Nashville SC to sixth place in the Western Conference standings, back above the playoff line as the season hits is crucial stretch run.
It was also Nashville SC’s highest goal output of the season, tying its largest margin of victory in its MLS history.
“Four goals, clean sheet, some superb performances and a result that was obviously much-needed for the group to keep us in a competitive position,” Smith said. “As I said more than once, we’re in a fight with a number of teams, and tonight was very, very important that we turned today into three points.”
One of those superb performances came from MVP candidate Hany Mukhtar, who added to his second-best MLS goal total (16) with a brace in the victory. Both of his goals came with a high difficulty threshold. His first was a shot from an almost-impossibly acute angle at the near post, blasting the shot past FC Dallas’ keeper to open the scoring in the 5’ minute. Then, in the 33’ minute, Mukhtar bent a curling free kick from the top of the box into the upper 90 of the net to pad Nashville’s lead.
Winger Jacob Shaffelburg also made an impact in his club debut on loan from Toronto FC. The Nova Scotia native collected a ball in the box from Mukhtar and blasted a shot through the hands of the keeper for Nashville’s second goal of the night in the 26’ minute.
Shaffelburg only joined the team last week, but says he was excited to start with this group right away.
“Since day one, a couple of the guys have been amazing,” he said. “And honestly, a few sessions in, I had a slight feeling that I was going to start with the kinds of formations we were doing. But I didn’t want to get ahead of myself until the day before. I didn’t want to tell anyone, keeping it low key, I just told my girlfriend and my parents. But yeah, it was amazing.”
Defender Dave Romney capped off the scoring with a second-half set piece header to seal the victory. It was Romney’s career-best third goal of the season.
With the win, the Boys in Gold picked up a much-needed three points and extended their club-record streak of scoring in 12 consecutive matches. Smith says the victory embodied the attitude and fortitude of his team after battling through a tough stretch.
“There were some players that were feeling the pinch,” Smith said. “Their pride was dented. I think you’ve seen a group tonight that have come out in the opening exchanges with a point to prove. A couple of things can happen when you’re in a difficult place. You can buckle and you can go under, or you can come out fighting. It doesn’t always mean you’re going to win, but if you come out fighting you’ve at least got a chance.”
Nashville SC’s playoff push continues with a crucial matchup on the road at Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday night. The teams are separated by just two points in the Western Conference standings. Coverage starts at 8:30 p.m. CT on MyTV30, our web stream and the Nashville SC app.