NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Oct. 6, 2020) – Nashville Soccer Club (4W-5L-6D, 18 pts.) extended its unbeaten streak at Nissan Stadium to six (3W-0L-3D) as the Boys in Gold held Minnesota United FC (6W-5L-5D, 23 pts.) to a scoreless draw on Tuesday night in front of 3,478 fans, the club’s first home crowd since Feb. 29.
The draw moved Nashville up to eighth place in the Eastern Conference, two spots above the playoff line, with the Boys in Gold earning points in eight of their last nine matches. Goalkeeper Joe Willis and his backline posted Nashville’s second consecutive clean sheet, extending Willis’ career-high to seven in one single season.
Head Coach Gary Smith reworked the formation that was seen in Nashville’s last match against New England. He fielded the same backline while Dax McCarty and Randall Leal ran point in the midfield. Defensive midfielders Matt LaGrassa and Tah Brian Anunga flanked McCarty with Alex Muyl and Derrick Jones putting the pressure up top. The narrower midfield created plenty of space for defenders Dan Lovitz and Alistair Johnston to get in on Nashville’s attacks down the wing. The stalwart defensive midfielders combined for an 86% pass completion rate and effectively shut down one of the league’s strongest attacking duos in Minnesota’s Emanuel Reynoso and Kevin Molino.
The compact midfield helped Smith’s side hold firm defensively, and Nashville’s passing patterns looked aggressive and encouraging throughout the 90 minutes. However, the team couldn’t find the final touch needed to clinch all three points against the fourth-place team in the Western Conference.
Hot Start: Nashville SC controlled the first half with 57.1% of possession and eight shots. Alex Muyl saw one of the best chances of the first half on the six-yard box saved by goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair in the 26th minute. Three minutes later, the ball escaped Muyl’s feet after center back José Aja hit him with a high shoulder on the edge of the box, and winger Randall Leal latched onto it and sent the ball into St. Clair’s outstretched arms. The diamond formation led to quick ball movement from defense to attack, and defender Walker Zimmerman along midfielder Dax McCarty made plenty of aggressive forward passes to break Minnesota’s defensive lines.
Willis The Wall: Willis put in another reliable performance between the sticks for Nashville extending his career-high shutout in a single season to seven. He had a busy second half, saving attempts from defender Michael Boxall, midfielder Ethan Finlay, midfielder Hassani Dotson and defender Bakaye Dibassy between the 60th and 80th minutes.
More Stingy Defense: Tonight’s clean sheet was a team effort. The usual group of Dan Lovitz, Dave Romney, Walker Zimmerman and Alistair Johnston consistently broke up Minnesota’s attack. Left-back Lovitz made a crucial, perfectly-timed last-ditch challenge in the box to prevent winger Molino from shooting on Willis in the 39th minute, and had another important one against Reynoso on the edge of the box with about 10 minutes left in the match. He and right-back Johnston provided the width throughout the 90 minutes and Zimmerman and Romney mopped up just about every loose touch and misplaced pass that came their way.
- Nashville SC extended its home unbeaten streak to six matches at Nissan Stadium with the draw. The club’s last home loss came in the home opener against Atlanta United FC on Feb. 29
- Nashville SC allowed a limited capacity of fans inside of Nissan Stadium for the first time since Feb. 29 on Tuesday night with an attendance of 3,478
- Nashville SC becomes the first expansion team in Major League Soccer to allowed the fewest goals in 15 games with 14 The defense involving Willis, Lovitz, Romney, Zimmerman and Johnston has sealed 4 shutouts and allowed 5 goals in 7 games starting together
- Joe Willis has now recorded shutouts in back-to-back matches. He is now tied with Columbus Crew SC’s Eloy Room for first in MLS in shutouts this season with seven. In his last three appearances, Willis has recorded 16 total saves
- Dax McCarty, Dave Romney, Joe Willis and Walker Zimmerman each made their 15th appearance for the club in MLS
- Derrick Jones and Alex Muyl each made their 10th appearance for the club in MLS
- Alex Muyl returned to the starting XI after only seeing time off the bench against NE Revolution last Saturday. Nashville SC is 3W-1L-4D when Muyl starts
- Matt LaGrassa made his second start of the season after making his start debut last week against New England
- Minnesota United FC backup goalkeeper Adrián Zendejas returned to Nissan Stadium for the first time since the Sept. 17th, 2020 trade from Nashville
- Abu Danladi returned from injury to face his former team coming into the match in the 74th minute
Nashville SC travels to Kansas City, KS on Sunday, Oct. 11 to take on Sporting Kansas City for the first time in club history. The match kicks off at 6:30 p.m. CT and will be broadcast live on MyTV30, ESPN 94.9 and El Jefe.
Nashville SC (4W-5L-6D, 18 pts.) vs. Minnesota United FC (6W-5L-5D, 23 pts.) Oct. 6, 2020 — Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.
NSH: Leal (caution), 44’
NSH: Joe Willis; Dan Lovitz, Dave Romney, Walker Zimmerman, Alistair Johnston; Dax McCarty, Matt LaGrassa (Taylor Washington, 64’), Tah Brian Anunga, Alex Muyl (Alan Winn, 64’), Randall Leal, Derrick Jones (Abu Danladi, 74’)
Unused Substitutes: Elliot Panicco, Jalil Anibaba, Brayan Beckeles, Eric Miller, Miguel Nazarit, Jack Maher
TOTAL SHOTS: 10 (Jones, Muyl 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (Leal, McCarty, Muyl 1); FOULS: 13 (Leal 4); OFFSIDES: 2; CORNER KICKS: 4; SAVES: 4; POSSESSION: 55.9%
MIN: Dayne St. Clair; Michael Boxall, Bakaye Dibassy, José Aja, Romain Métanire; Jacori Hayes, Hassani Dotson, Ethan Finlay; Kevin Molino, Aaron Schoenfeld (Kei Kamara, 71’), Emanuel Reynoso
Unused Substitutes: Adrián Zendejas, Brent Kallman, Robin Lod, James Musa, Marlon Hairston, Raheem Edwards
TOTAL SHOTS: 13; SHOTS ON GOAL: 4; FOULS: 18; OFFSIDES: 0; CORNER KICKS: 5; SAVES: 3; POSSESSION: 44.1%
Referee: Joseph Dickerson
Assistant Referees: Corey Parker, Adam Garner
Fourth Official: Kevin Broadley
VAR: Hilario Grajeda
Weather: Clear, 62 degrees
Statistics are unofficial.