NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Oct. 14, 2020) – Nashville SC (5W-6L-6D, 21 pts.) caught fire early against the Houston Dynamo (4W-7L-7D, 19 pts.), scoring all three of its goals between the 15th and 23rd minutes on the way to a 3-1 win on Wednesday night at BBVA Stadium.
Attacking midfielder Hany Mukhtar scored the first brace in Nashville’s Major League Soccer history, and forward Abu Danladi added a goal and an assist to help their team capture its largest road victory of the season. Goalkeeper Joe Willis made five saves to secure the victory in his first trip back to face his former club.
With the win, the Boys in Gold vaulted back above the playoff line and into eighth place in the Eastern Conference. The club still has a match in hand on playoff rivals Atlanta United, Montreal Impact and Inter Miami CF.
Head Coach Gary Smith made six changes to the Starting XI, but the players gelled quickly on the pitch, scoring three goals in an eight-minute span. Mukhtar’s first goal came in the 15th minute with a dynamic run off of a Danladi pass, a deft touch and a smooth finish to the lower-left corner. Danladi got in on the scoring with a lunging header off a Taylor Washington cross in the 19th minute. Moments later in the 23rd minute, Mukhtar struck again with a world-class bending free kick from outside the box to make it 3-0.
Designated Player and forward Jhonder Cádiz, acquired on loan from Portuguese giants S.L. Benfica last month, made his debut as a 70th-minute substitute. 2020 Second-overall SuperDraft pick and Defender Jack Maher earned his first career start after making his first appearance against Sporting Kansas City on Sunday.
Starting on Tuesday against FC Dallas, Nashville SC returns to play four of its next five matches at home amid the playoff stretch.
Fast Attacking Start: Nashville scored all three of its goals between the 15th and 23rd minutes. Hany Mukhtar’s two goals came on either side of Abu Danladi’s scoring header. Mukhtar opened the scoring after receiving the ball in space from forward Danladi. The German then tapped the ball to the right of center back Aljaz Struna, ran around his left side, recovered the ball, and finished into the bottom-left corner. Danladi doubled the Nashville lead when left wing-back Taylor Washington crossed it into the box. The forward then separated from center back Maynor Figueroa, leaped into the air and put it past Marko Maric. Last, but not least, Mukhtar dispatched a curled free-kick into the top-left corner from the edge of Houston’s penalty area. The trio of goals forced Houston Head Coach Tab Ramos to make a substitution in the 25th minute.
Chopping and Changing: With a quick turnaround from Sunday’s away match against Sporting Kansas City, Nashville had to recover and adjust. Lineup mainstays including Walker Zimmerman, Dan Lovitz, Alistair Johnston, Dax McCarty, Randall Leal and Derrick Jones all made way; Jack Maher, Jalil Anibaba, Eric Miller, Taylor Washington, Matt LaGrassa and Hany Mukhtar entered the fray. Changing over half of the starting lineup did not disrupt Nashville’s performance. The Boys in Gold won by their joint-highest margin of victory in the club’s MLS history.
Defense Stays Consistent: For eight of the 10 matches played since August 30th, Gary Smith has started a backline of Dan Lovitz, Dave Romney, Walker Zimmerman and Alistair Johnston. Tonight, only Romney—who kept his streak of playing in every minute of every match this season alive after another 90-minute performance—retained his place in the starting lineup. Jalil Anibaba, Taylor Washington, Eric Miller and rookie Jack Maher stepped into the team and added an extra body to the backline. It worked: they made 25 clearances while limiting the Dynamo to putting just six of their 19 shots on target. The central midfield partnership also did their job defensively: Tah Brian Anunga contributed with seven ball recoveries and a blocked shot, while Matt LaGrassa chipped in eight recoveries, four interceptions, and one tackle.
NSH – Hany Mukhtar (Abu Danladi) 15’: Danladi passes the ball into space for Mukhtar. Mukhtar taps the ball to Struna’s right, runs around his left side, recovers the ball, and slots it into the bottom left corner.
NSH – Abu Danladi (Taylor Washington) 19’: Washington gets the ball on the left side, plays a cross in for Danladi, who separates from his defender and heads it into the back of the net.
NSH – Hany Mukhtar 23’: Mukhtar wins a free kick after entering open space with the ball, takes his own free-kick and places it in the top left corner.
HOU - Darwin Quintero (Mauro Manotas) 75’: Houston attackers combine on the edge of the area before Manotas slips Quintero through on goal with a pass. Quintero shoots under Willis, and it trickles into the goal.
- Nashville’s 3-1 win is the largest margin of victory on the road in its MLS history. The result is tied with the 4-2 win against Atlanta United on Sept. 12th for the largest overall in the club’s MLS history.
- Nashville SC scored more than one goal on the road for the first time.
- With three goals scored in 23 minutes, this game marks the fastest Nashville SC has scored 3 goals in 2020.
- Rookie Jack Maher made his first start for Nashville SC.
- Hany Mukhtar had his first career multi-goal match in MLS and the first brace in Nashville’s MLS history. He now leads the team in goals this season with three.
- Nashville played its youngest lineup in club MLS history with an average age of 26 years and two months.
- Taylor Washington made his first career MLS assist on Abu Danladi’s 19th-minute goal.
- Designated Player and forward Jhonder Cádiz made his Nashville SC debut when he came on as a substitute in the 70th minute.
- Nashville SC drew 1-1 at home against Houston Dynamo in their first-ever matchup on September 26, 2020.
- Nashville SC acquired Joe Willis from Houston Dynamo in a trade for Zarek Valentin, who was selected in the 2019 MLS Expansion Draft.
- Houston Head Coach Tab Ramos coached Alex Muyl, Walker Zimmerman, Eric Miller and Derrick Jones at the United States under-20 level. Ramos called Muyl up to a training camp, and the coach gave 10 caps to Zimmerman, 11 to Miller and four to Jones.
- Defender Alistair Johnston was suspended for Wednesday’s match due to two yellow cards and a subsequent red card on Sunday at Sporting KC.
Nashville SC hosts FC Dallas at Nissan Stadium on Tuesday, Oct. 20th. The match kicks off at 7:30 p.m. CT and will be broadcast live on FS1, ESPN 94.9 and El Jefe.
Nashville SC (5W-6L-6D, 21 pts.) vs. Houston Dynamo (4W-7L-7D, 19 pts.)
Oct. 14, 2020 — BBVA Stadium, Houston, Texas.
NSH: Mukhtar (Danladi), 15’; Danladi (Washington), 19’; Mukhtar (free kick), 23’
HOU: Quintero (Manotas), 75’
NSH: Beckeles (caution), 86’
HOU: Figueroa (caution), 22; Martínez (caution), 82’
NSH: Joe Willis; Eric Miller, Jack Maher (Brayan Beckeles, 85’), Jalil Anibaba, Dave Romney, Taylor Washington; Tah Brian Anunga, Matt LaGrassa (Aníbal Godoy, 70’), Alex Muyl (Jhonder Cádiz, 70’), Hany Mukhtar (Derrick Jones, HT); Abu Danladi (Randall Leal, HT)
Unused Substitutes: Elliot Panicco, Daniel Lovitz, Dax McCarty, Alan Winn
TOTAL SHOTS: 16 (Mukhtar, 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 7 (Mukhtar, 3); FOULS: 13 (Cádiz, Mukhtar, Muyl, Anunga, 2); OFFSIDES: 0; CORNER KICKS: 5; SAVES: 5; POSSESSION: 36.8%
HOU: Marko Maric; José Bizama, Aljaz Struna (Niko Hansen, 78’), Maynor Figueroa, Adam Lundkvist (Sam Junqua, 67’); Ariel Lassiter (Christian Ramirez, 66’), Matías Vera, Darwin Cerén (Tomás Martínez, 25’), Memo Rodríguez; Darwin Quintero, Mauro Manotas
Unused Substitutes: Cody Cropper, Zarek Valentin, Víctor Cabrera, Óscar Boniek García, Wilfried Zahibo
TOTAL SHOTS: 19; SHOTS ON GOAL: 6; FOULS: 13; OFFSIDES: 2; CORNER KICKS: 11; SAVES:4; POSSESSION: 63.2%
Referee: Nima Saghafi
Assistant Referees: Nick Uranga, Matthew Nelson
Fourth Official: David Gantar
VAR: Rosendo Mendoza
Statistics are unofficial.