2022.04.02 @ CLB-19

Three players made their first starts of 2022, one of whom hadn’t even seen the pitch at all this season.  

Those “next men up” proved to be the difference on Saturday night, helping guide a rotated Nashville SC squad to a hard-fought 1-0 win at Columbus Crew.  

Midfielder Alex Muyl, who played his first full 90 minutes of 2022, scored the lone goal of the match in the 28’ minute on an assist from defender Taylor Washington, who played his first minutes of the year.  

Head Coach Gary Smith praised Muyl’s performance.  

“For Alex to score the winner, it’s just the icing on the cake,” Smith said. “There were some wonderful flashes of what he might offer us out on that side [two weeks ago] against Real Salt Lake. I thought him and Randall [Leal] combined ever-so-well two weeks ago, which gave me food for thought about continuing some of that relationship-building. And for [Muyl] to score was wonderful.” 

Muyl’s goal was set up on the wing with a link-up between Washington and Hany Mukhtar. The German midfielder laid off a nifty backheel pass to Washington, who dashed down the flank and floated a perfectly placed cross for an open Muyl to head in.  

The goal scorer gave plenty of credit to Washington for his role in the goal and his performance on the night.  

“Taylor is such an important player to this team both on and off the field,” Muyl said. “He’s a talented guy, and I don’t think he gets enough credit for the things he does. It was great to see him come in and do well.” 

With defender Walker Zimmerman and midfielder Aníbal Godoy coming off busy international windows, defender Jack Maher and midfielder Brian Anunga started the match in their place. Maher stood out on the back line with 97% pass accuracy, five clearances, four interceptions and five recoveries in his first full 90 minutes of the season. Anunga made way for Godoy in the 71’ minute after making 11 recoveries and completing 83% of his passes.  

Smith was happy with the pair’s performance under the circumstances of the match.  

“In their absence, Jack Maher was arguably man of the match,” Smith said. “There were three or four candidates for that from my standpoint. Brian Anunga, it almost feels like he hadn’t skipped a beat. He’s not played in the group or started in the group this year. But what we know of Brian is that he’s immensely competitive, very capable, and it’s a tough task to come in when you’ve been sitting on the bench, you’ve been getting next to no minutes and now you’re asked to be the main man. And he was absolutely terrific tonight.” 

With the win, Nashville sits on seven points through the first five matches of the season, all of which have been on the road. That matches the club’s point total through the first five matches of 2021, which featured four home matches and just one road match.  

Smith says the win should bring some much-needed good vibes to the group as it prepares to battle through the last three matches of the eight-match road trip, starting with next weekend’s clash at Sporting KC. 

“[The win] is a big lift,” Smith said. “It was a lift that was needed after a couple of defeats that, quite frankly with the second one, I felt as though we were a tad hard-done by. But it is what it is. You’ve got to get on with it, and tonight was always going to be an immensely tough game, and we’ve overcome that. So that will be a huge shot in the arm for the group. But the challenge next weekend will be a completely different one against a team that is starting to turn their season in the right direction, and a team that is always in the playoffs. So if anyone expects it to be easy, it’s not going to be. But this will certainly give us an opportunity to regroup, feel good and go again.” 

Nashville SC is back in action this Saturday night with a matchup against Sporting Kansas City. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. CT.