2022.02.08 Preseason CLT-36

Nashville SC kicked off the second phase of its preseason camp in Florida with a 3-1 win in a friendly against Charlotte FC on Tuesday at IMG Academy.  

Forward CJ Sapong netted a first-half brace, both with assists from forward Aké Loba. Midfielder Hany Mukhtar notched an assist on the first goal as well. Teal Bunbury added a third goal in the second half to secure the victory.  

The Boys in Gold will continue to train in Tampa with another preseason friendly set for Tuesday, Feb. 15 against FC Cincinnati.  

Here’s what stood out from the first scrimmage of the preseason:  

Loba Warming Up – It was a strong showing for Loba on Tuesday with a pair of assists, including a backheel feed to Sapong for the first goal.

Head Coach Gary Smith praised the Ivorian forward’s work so far in preseason.

“We’ve now got a player who in the offseason has worked very hard, he’s come back in great shape, and you can see that in the games,” Smith said. “As far as the connections, it wasn’t just the assists. He worked two or three other fantastic opportunities and could have had a goal himself, but was very unselfish and tried to square it. I don’t think it would be wrong to say that it was probably his brightest 45 minutes that I’ve seen. I think if we look back as far as Cincinnati [on Oct. 27, 2021] when he scored and made a wonderful impact in the game, this was more like the Aké that we all expected. Now it’s time for some consistency, to keep working at that, to keep layering that information and connection to what he’s going to be able to do for the group.”

Walker Wants More – Tuesday's friendly also marked defender Walker Zimmerman’s return to action for Nashville SC after rejoining the squad for this phase of preseason. The back-to-back MLS Defender of the Year winner was in U.S. Men’s National Team Camp, where he scored a crucial goal in a 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier last week against Honduras.

Zimmerman spoke about his expectations for 2022 after so much individual and team success in 2021.

“I think, first and foremost, I want to win a trophy here. I want to bring some silverware back to the club. On a personal level, I expect myself to be in the conversation for individual awards, Defender of the Year. I want it again. No question about it. All-Star, that’s a goal for sure. All those awards, I’m going to chase them every single year. On the national side, it’s obviously qualification and World Cup. It’s a big year. It’s kind of a year where a lot of those goals that I’ve had from prior to being a pro, it’s a chance to make those dreams and goals come true. It’s kind of full focus ahead. Ever since coming to Nashville, I've been very locked in on doing things the right way and trying to show up every day and get better. That’s the only way these goals are going to be achieved.”

Nashville SC kicks off its third MLS season in just 18 days on Feb. 27 on the road at the Seattle Sounders. Come on N and be a part of history this season as Nashville SC opens its brand-new stadium on May 1. Click here to get your season tickets.