PICKENS MAKES THREE SAVES TO PRESERVE THREE POINTS
MATTHEWS, N.C. – A Daniel Ríos brace split amongst the two halves, coupled with a long-range Kharlton Belmar goal, powered Nashville Soccer Club to a huge three points with a 3-1 victory at Charlotte Independence on Saturday night. The points moved Nashville SC just two behind first place in the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference.
Nashville opened the scoring early in the 7’ minute with Ríos bagging his first of the night off a corner kick seemingly straight off the training ground. After numerous back and forth passes resulting from a Lebo Moloto corner, Taylor Washington threaded a pass through the defense to Ríos, who blasted the shot over the head of Charlotte keeper Brandon Miller. Miller was left frozen as the ball hit the top of the net.
Midway through the half, Charlotte found an equalizer on its first offensive chance from a scramble in the box, breaking Nashville SC’s 489-minute club-record shutout streak. Forward Enzo Martinez fired a long range shot through traffic, beating keeper Matt Pickens low to the right side of the net.
In the second half, Nashville flexed its offensive muscle as Alan Winn earned a penalty in 54’ minute. Ríos cooly converted two minute later from the spot to give the forward his second of the evening, his third multi-goal match in a NSC uniform and his 17th of the season.
In the 60’ minute, Belmar added a third from outside the box courtesy of a Matt LaGrassa pass. Belmar’s strike was on target and deflected just inside the far post to double the lead. Matt Pickens and the defense salted away the rest of the match to earn all three points.
Here are three takeaways from the win:
1) Six Straight Results
While Nashville’s shutout streak was broken in the match, the result streak stayed very much intact with the two-goal victory. It is the sixth straight result, five of those wins, for the Boys in Gold. In those six matches, Nashville has scored 13 goals and conceded just once in the longest such streak for any team challenging for the top spot in the East.
2) Ríos Keeps Pace
Daniel Ríos is hot on the heels of the USL Championship’s Golden Boot leader, Solomon Asante of Phoenix Rising FC. After Asante scored twice in Phoenix’s 4-2 win on Friday night, Ríos matched Asante on Saturday to remain just one behind him. Asante leads the league with 18 goals this season while Ríos has 17. Nashville’s leading goal scorer is in search of the Championship’s first-ever back-to-back 20 goal seasons after hitting an even 20 last year while on loan with North Carolina FC.
3) LaGrassa Starts, Lancaster Returns
Two of Nashville SC’s key pieces have missed significant time in the last six weeks following injuries suffered on July 6 in Nashville SC’s match at Louisville City FC. In the 3-1 victory on Saturday, Matt LaGrassa earned his first start since the injury, going 60 minutes before being subbed out. Forward Cameron Lancaster saw the field for the first time since his injury as a substitute coming on in the 85’ minute for Ríos. With a two-match week on tap next week, a healthy LaGrassa and Lancaster will be pertinent to Nashville’s continued success in August.
Nashville SC will return to First Tennessee Park for a two-match homestand next week starting with an important matchup against New York Red Bulls II on Wednesday night. It is the replay of a game postponed following severe weather on June 26. The game will start fresh with a 0-0 scoreline and will go 90 full minutes. All final ticket holders to the match will be able to enter Wednesday’s match with the same ticket.