NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Aníbal Godoy was the hero on Sunday night in Nashville SC’s 1-0 win over Inter Miami CF, but it was a few new faces that helped shape Nashville’s first Major League Soccer home win.
Head Coach Gary Smith turned some heads with his lineup selection, rotating some of his squad for the team’s second match in a grueling stretch of four matches in 14 days. Smith inserted midfielder Brian Anunga into the starting lineup for the midfielder's MLS debut in the place of captain Dax McCarty. He also placed winger Alex Muyl into the lineup for Hany Mukhtar.
Anunga’s stellar play alongside Godoy, whose goal put Nashville in the lead in the second half, helped earn the win for Nashville.
“I felt like it was an awesome game,” Anunga said. “Making my debut against Miami and having Anibal Godoy next to me and he was guiding me and helping me, all of the guys you know. Walker [Zimmerman] and Dave [Romney] helped me and made my debut so much easier. I couldn’t be more happy to have these guys and play around these guys. It just made everything easy and was great.”
The rotation in the starting lineup also allowed Smith to make match-altering adjustments in the second half. While Randall Leal took over for Mukhtar’s usual role in the central midfield at the start of the match, Mukhtar was subbed in alongside him at halftime. His offensive spark helped drive Nashville towards the opening goal. In addition, McCarty’s late substitution into the match helped lock down the victory as Miami ramped up its attacks.
Smith thought the lineup adjustments and subsequent substitutions worked to perfection.
“Brian Anunga’s very first start in MLS, he goes a full 90 minutes, and I thought he was absolutely outstanding in midfield,” Smith said. “It was exactly what the team needed, more energy. The guys that have played in there were certainly needing a rest and it enabled me to rotate that a bit more. We needed a bit more energy, a change for Randall, a bit more perspective. And it gave Hany an opportunity to give himself a bit of respite, come on and inject something into the game and I thought he was a real catalyst for the group when he came on. That area of the field that we certainly looked more accomplished in.”
Muyl also impressed Smith with his 60 minutes of work on Sunday night. He appeared to score his first goal in the 17’ minute, but VAR overturned the goal due to a foul in the box.
“I thought tonight there were occasions where he showed both sides of his abilities,” Smith said of Muyl. “He’s a really good team player when we don’t have the ball and you see when the opportunity comes along in the goal scoring zones, he’s in an area where he’s attacking the ball. I’m still yet to be convinced that’s not a goal. He’s checking off all the right boxes at the moment and he’s got another hour under his belt after a real competitive display tonight.”
Nashville SC faces yet another quick turnaround this week with a matchup with Orlando City SC looming on Wednesday at Nissan Stadium. Nashville’s loss to the Lions last week remains fresh, but Smith hopes the confidence of a home win will help boost the Boys in Gold.
“There are many aspects of their game that are tough to stop at the moment,” Smith said of Orlando. “Their fullbacks are very, very, attacking minded. You know, their left-hand side produced their opening goal last Wednesday. Their midfield looks extremely well drilled and they have got talent upfront and good rotation. So, we won’t have long. We certainly will keep some of those qualities in mind and hopefully on our home field with the confident result [Sunday night], it puts us in a better place.”