Rookie Jack Maher opens flood gates with first MLS preseason goal
BRADENTON, Fla. – Nashville Soccer Club continued its hot streak in Florida after downing FC Cincinnati 3-1 Sunday evening at IMG Academy. Jack Maher, Daniel Ríos and Derrick Jones provided a goal apiece to secure the club’s third straight preseason win.
First-round draft pick Maher rose above the chaos to give Nashville an early lead in the 20’ minute. NSC earned a free kick just outside the box, and midfielder Hany Mukhtar’s initial attempt on target was deflected to the feet of Matt LaGrassa. The midfielder redirected the ball towards the back post where Maher was waiting to strike.
After FC Cincinnati found the equalizer in the second half, Ríos responded with an individual effort to regain the lead in the 64’ minute. His low, driven shot was out of reach for Cincinnati’s keeper and gave Nashville the boost it needed to close out the match. Nine minutes later, Jones stepped up to convert from the spot and lock in the 3-1 victory for the Boys in Gold.
First Half Lineup: GK Joe Willis, D Brayan Beckeles, D Jack Maher, D Ken Tribbett, D Taylor Washington, M Tah Brian Anunga, M Matt LaGrassa, M David Accam, M Hany Mukhtar, M Luke Haakenson, F Dominique Badji
Second Half Lineup: GK Joe Willis, D Brayan Beckeles, D Miguel Nazarit, D Ken Tribbett, D Taylor Washington, M Tah Brian Anunga, M Matt LaGrassa, M David Accam, M Derrick Jones, M Luke Haakenson, F Daniel Ríos
Substitutions: Daniel Ríos (for Dominique Badji, 46’), Miguel Nazarit (for Jack Maher, 46’), Derrick Jones (in for Hany Mukhtar, 46’), Abu Danladi (for David Accam, 62’), Alan Winn (for Luke Haakenson, 62’), Elliot Panicco (in for Joe Willis, 62’), Alistair Johnston (for Brayan Beckeles, 72’)
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Shaking Things Up – Head Coach Gary Smith ordered a complete Starting XI overhaul last night. With the exception of goalkeeper Joe Willis, changes were made to every position on the field to start the match. Less tenured MLS players saw increased minutes, and several players got their first start of preseason including Beckeles, Maher, Tribbett, Anunga, Washington, LaGrassa, Accam and Haakenson.
Locking It Down – Despite conceding a goal against FC Cincinnati, Nashville’s goalkeeping corps put on a strong performance to keep FCC at bay. Nashville created more opportunities in the first half; however, Cincinnati settled in at the start of the second and began to add pressure. Willis came up big with a two-handed snag to snuff an FC Cincy set-piece in the 54’ minute, and rookie Elliot Panicco had a few good stops of his own late in the match to ice the win.
Jack Attack – Rookie Maher capitalized on a deflected free kick to net his first preseason goal in MLS. The 20-year-old was drafted as the second overall pick in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft and has already made his presence known. While he made a big offensive play Sunday night to grab an early lead, Maher received high praise from Smith for his defensive effort as well.
“Jack is a talented player,” Smith said. “He has an awful lot of qualities for a center back. He’s quite athletic, he’s very composed on the ball, he reads the game really well for a young center back and he’s competitive…A lot of qualities that you need to be a good modern-day center back.”
Nashville SC closes out its preseason campaign against D.C. United on Wednesday, Feb. 19 at Joe DiMaggio Sports Complex in Clearwater, Fla. before kicking off the 2020 MLS regular season on Feb. 29 at Nissan Stadium against Atlanta United.