Forward Dominique Badji finds his first goal of preseason
ST. PETERSBERG, Fla. – Nashville Soccer Club locked in a 1-0 victory over the Montreal Impact at Al Lang Stadium Wednesday night, giving the team a boost of confidence as it prepares for its inaugural home opener against Atlanta United on Feb. 29.
Both teams saw chances in the first 45 minutes of the match, and second half subs provided the spark Nashville SC needed to edge out the Impact towards the end of the match. Goalkeeper Adrían Zendejas preserved fellow keeper Joe Willis’ first-half clean sheet when he deflected an on-frame shot from Montreal in the 75’ minute. Zendejas’ effort gave Nashville’s offense the momentum for a counter-attack, and three minutes later, forward Dominique Badji broke the silence with a header off of a cross from defender Taylor Washington.
First Half Lineup: GK Joe Willis, D Eric Miller, D Jalil Anibaba, D Dave Romney, D Dan Lovitz, M Aníbal Godoy, M Dax McCarty, M Derrick Jones, M Randall Leal, M Alan Winn, F Daniel Ríos
Second Half Lineup: GK Joe Willis, D Eric Miller, D Jalil Anibaba, D Dave Romney, D Dan Lovitz, M Aníbal Godoy, M Dax McCarty, M Derrick Jones, M Randall Leal, M David Accam, F Dominique Badji
Substitutions (60’ minute): Adrían Zendejas (for Joe Willis), Brayan Beckeles (for Eric Miller), Ken Tribbett (for Jalil Anibaba), Taylor Washington (for Dave Romney), Jack Maher (for Dan Lovitz), Tah Brian Anunga (for Aníbal Godoy), Matt LaGrassa (for Dax McCarty), Alistair Johnston (for Derrick Jones), Luke Haakenson (for Randall Leal)
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Strong and Steady – One of Head Coach Gary Smith’s goals for the team heading into Wednesday was to play with an “edge” despite some fatigue. After four weeks of intense training and conditioning, heavy legs were inevitable, but Nashville’s high energy, good shape and elevated tempo led to solid offensive production.
A more tenured group followed by newer talent relentlessly fought to find the go-ahead goal and put pressure on Montreal’s backline with a handful of chances. Before eventually finding the back of the net, Nashville saw a shot from Derrick Jones hit the crossbar, and a goal from Badji waived offside in the 57’ and 64’ minutes, respectively.
Increased Workload – Nine of 11 starters on Wednesday extended their opening shifts by 15 minutes against Montreal. In the team’s previous three preseason matches, Smith called for a complete swap during halftime, but saw yesterday’s match as an opportunity to push their minutes for a more realistic scenario. With offensive contributors Hany Mukhtar and Abu Danladi getting rest, opportunities opened up for other players to step in and make a statement.
Team Effort – Five different Nashville SC players have accounted for the team’s six goals during its 2020 preseason campaign. Leal netted the team’s first in a preseason scrimmage on Feb. 6 against the Chicago Fire, followed by a second against Louisville City FC four days later. Daniel Ríos, David Accam and Abu Danladi contributed to the team’s total with a goal apiece in the 4-1 win over LouCity. Badji then made his mark with a game-winning header Wednesday night.
Nashville SC meets FC Cincinnati in its fifth preseason match on Sunday, Feb. 16 at 5 p.m. CT at IMG Academy in Bradenton. After Sunday’s match, one more preseason scrimmage remains before the team returns home for its MLS debut against Atlanta United on Saturday, Feb. 29 at Nissan Stadium.