NASHVILLE – Stoppage time in soccer is confusing, frustrating, unique and often arbitrary.
But sometimes… when a deal has been struck with the soccer gods… stoppage time is beautiful.
Over the last two USL Championship seasons, Nashville Soccer Club has produced four moments of beauty after the clock has struck 90:00. Four go-ahead match-winning goals that turned a sure draw into an unforgettable victory for Nashville SC. All four have been scored towards the supporters’ section, and each time the Nashville SC players have immediately celebrated with the fans.
It has been a treat for the gold-clad crowd lately, as Nashville has found magic three times in four home matches over the last six weeks. But, how rare is it in the USL Championship for a team to score a stoppage time match-winning go-ahead goal?
In the last two seasons, there have been 1,134 total league matches played in the regular season. Only 37 matches, or 3.2%, have ended with a winner in stoppage time.
Nashville SC has four of those, more than any other USL Championship team over the last two years. Let that sink in for a second. Of the 37 stoppage time winners, Nashville SC has scored more than 10% of them, all at home, all in front of the supporters section, more than any other team in the league.
Some teams haven’t experienced a moment like this in the last two seasons. Of the 39 teams that have taken the pitch in the last two years, 17 don’t have a single stoppage time match-winning go-ahead goal. Some of those teams will surprise you, teams like Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, Indy Eleven, Sacramento Republic FC and Las Vegas Lights haven’t found that magic.
Only 11 teams have at least two such goals. Only three teams have scored three in the last two seasons, Charleston Battery, Orange County SC and Portland Timbers II. Nashville SC stands alone as the only team with four.
When you take the last six weeks though, it becomes truly improbable. Nashville SC has as many stoppage time match-winners in the last six weeks than any team has over the last two seasons. In fact, no team has even produced three in a season in the last two years, and the Boys in Gold have done it in their last four home matches.
Club of Chaos? Team of Destiny? Maybe it’s the energy of the home fans behind the net, forcing the ball into the goal through sheer willpower.
Regardless, Nashville SC has had a penchant for scoring late since its move to the professional ranks prior to the 2018 USL Championship season. Of the 108 goals Nashville SC has scored since 2018, 26 have come after the 75’ minute. The scoring has been spread out as 15 different Nashville SC players have contributed a goal in the final 15 minutes of a match. It will come as no shock that Ropapa Mensah has more late goals (four) than any other player, but other players on the list include defenders Taylor Washington and Justin Davis, former player Robin Shroot and the most recent one, center back Jimmy Ockford.
It’s a charmed life that a Nashville SC fan has led the last two seasons, rooting for playoff teams each year, under a coach that won an MLS Cup, all while knowing that Major League Soccer is on the horizon. There have been plenty of highs and very few true lows between results on the field and announcements off it.
Somehow the heart-stopping, ecstasy-inducing, final-second goals at First Tennessee Park might just be the best part of it all.