PHILADELPHIA – Nashville Soccer Club has dealt with adversity before. However, it had never overcome a deficit to earn a win after conceding the first goal.
On Sunday night, Nashville bucked that trend and earned a come-from-behind 4-1 victory over Bethlehem Steel FC. Coupled with a last-moment venue change in Philadelphia for the match, the comeback was one that showed the type of winning attitude the Boys in Gold can bring.
“It’s taken a long time, so I’m delighted that it’s happened today,” Head Coach Gary Smith said of the comeback. “The circumstances weren’t very natural or normal having a change of venue, it affected an awful lot of things. Travel, obviously the field and the quality of the surface, the size of the surface, but most importantly, some of the facilities here have been diabolical. But it makes the victory, and coming from behind, even sweeter. In adversity sometimes, you see the best of people, and we have in our group today.”
A Bethlehem free kick goal from just outside the box put the home side up 1-0 midway through the first half, but a Ken Tribbett header from a corner kick equalized the match just a couple of minutes later. That goal was extra special for Tribbett, as he went to college at Drexel University in Philadelphia and came up through the Philadelphia Union system.
A few of his teammates from Drexel came to McCarthy Stadium to watch Tribbett play, and he was delighted to score in front of them.
“Philly is a special place for me,” Tribbett said. “It’s my college, you know. I came here in 2010, so it’s basically my second home. I’ve been here 8-9 years. So it’s always special to come home, [and] to put in a performance like that, score a goal in front of my old college mates and my family was special.”
After quickly erasing the deficit, Nashville SC still went into halftime deadlocked at 1-1. The players in the locker room knew they couldn’t let this opportunity to come from behind slip away.
“At halftime, I told everybody that this is our biggest challenge,” defender Kosuke Kimura said. “I didn’t want to say we never came back, because I didn’t want to put that in their head. I just told them this is our biggest challenge yet to come back. This is a big chance. Gary said this is our day. We started bright even though we conceded the first goal. Maybe we could have scored before. We knew that if we kept going at it, kept working at it…we have a good group of guys. This is a good group of guys. They never cheat. They work hard. Everybody has everybody’s back. We just kept pushing and then we got the second.”
Nearly 20 minutes into the second half, Nashville found its go-ahead goal off the foot of Ropapa Mensah, and a few minutes later, Kimura himself found a goal to pad the advantage. It was Kimura’s first goal since June 15, 2017 when he was with Tulsa Roughnecks FC in a U.S. Open Cup match against FC Dallas, and his first in league play since he was with MLS’ Portland Timbers in 2012.
Smith was particularly happy that Kimura got himself back on the score sheet, having coached him during a memorable season with the Colorado Rapids in 2010.
“Any goal is a good goal,” Smith said. “I think [one of] the last times Kosuke scored was in the semifinal of the 2010 playoffs when we went on and won it, and he scored a very important goal against San Jose in the semifinal at home. That was a long time ago. That’s how prolific Kosuke is, but I’m sure he’ll be just as pleased scoring today as any other time.”
With the win, Nashville SC stretched its unbeaten run to five matches in league play. With all of the movement going on in the Eastern Conference standings, Smith knows all his team can do to keep up is to continue to win and earn results.
“It’s an unbeaten league run,” Smith said. “The longer that goes on, the better. It gives confidence to the group, and it’s never easy away from home. I think we’re one of the top sides away from home at the moment. It is important that we turn the screw and find better form at home. But I’m seeing a lot of positives in the group, most of all the attitude. It wasn’t easy today. They are a very capable side. Connor [Sparrow] made two or three excellent saves in the second half to keep them at arm’s length. But the attitude to come away and perform in difficult circumstances, and to really be adaptable enough to get the job done, it’s the most pleasing aspect of the day.”