Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC
Nashville Soccer Club defeated the Colorado Rapids 2-1 with another stellar performance from Hany Mukhtar.
Mukhtar, coming off his MLS All-Star week, was substituted in during the 57th minute, and scored the opening goal within 60 seconds. In the 65th minute, He showed off his footwork, cutting in from the right flank and laying in a cross to Jacob Shaffelburg who tapped it in, giving Nashville SC a 2-0 lead. Mukhtar scored his 100th and 1o1st goal contribution in MLS with his goal and assist.
“We lost a little bit of continuity in our play in the last four or five games, and it was important that we started somehow to get back on track,” said Head Coach Gary Smith in a postgame press conference. “The first half looked a little bit nervy at times, no lack of energy and competitive edge. Chances that unfortunately were not there for us to complete and put ourselves in front. I think you saw when the three guys came on, and by the way, I thought Jacob [Shaffelburg] was outstanding in that first period, very much involved in an attacking sense. Within his first two touches, Hany made all the difference. I thought the influence of the three guys was a very positive one, and of course to get a two-goal lead put us in a much more confident position.”
The first half had its moments from both Shaffelburg and Teal Bunbury, who has struggled to score over the past month, and was filled with slow movement and lack of inspiration on both sides. However, Shaffelburg proved why he is one of the best young forwards in the league, showcasing his incredible speed and crossing abilities. His work was awarded as scored his first goal for Nashville in nearly three months.
“The goal helped big time,” said Shaffelburg. “I have not scored for Nashville since Atlanta United, so that was a long time ago. It feels nice to score again and kind of get reset I guess. But yeah, I mean, it’s amazing to score and to get back into it. It feels great to get my confidence back. Obviously the Gold Cup goal helped quite a bit with my confidence. So I’ve been feeling really good since then. To get a goal tonight is kind of just to build off it’s amazing, and the win is also really good.”
With the win, the Boys in Gold put themselves in great position to win the group and head to the knockout stage of the League’s Cup. The victory has also boosted Nashville SC’s morale as they’ve had a brutal month losing five of their last six matches.
“I just think it’s very important that we got back in the win column,” said Smith. “Honestly, I’m not sure the performances over the past six games have been that poor. If you look at the way we played against Philadelphia [Union], lots of opportunities, very aggressive, very purposeful, the result wasn’t there. We can look at some of the decisions that were made in the game, but we also have to look internally at ourselves and start to decide what we’re going to be, what we want to be and how we’re going to get there. I thought tonight, we slowly but surely started to turn in that positive direction. The result was very important emotionally for all of the group and puts us on a very positive track and maybe in a position, there’s still work to be done, but try and control this group of three teams and finish top of it and give ourselves a home game in the last 32.”
Nashville SC will host Liga MX club Toluca this Thursday (July 27) at GEODIS Park. The game will be an exciting one as Liga MX clubs tend to bring in tons of passionate Mexican soccer fans. This will be the second time Nashville SC has hosted a Liga MX squad at home.