Nashville bounced from Open Cup, sees unbeaten streak snapped

All good things must come to an end.

For Nashville SC, their 2-1 loss to Louisville City FC in the U.S. Open Cup Wednesday meant the end of two things. The Boys in Gold have not only been eliminated in the round of 16 of the Cup, but they also see their unbeaten streak in all competitions come an end at 11.

Nashville rolled out the same formation it used Saturday against North Carolina FC, with just a couple of changes. Late-winner savant Ropapa Mensah came on to start up top, with Lebo Moloto hanging back behind him. Michael Reed and Bolu Akinyode once again controlled the middle of the park, with Ish Jome and Matt LaGrassa out wide. London Woodberry came in and played in the back, which was the only change on the defense that has only allowed two goals in its past five contests coming in.

Louisville, meanwhile, was facing a plethora of injuries. One of them included top goal-scorer Cameron Lancaster, who was ruled doubtful before the contest.

The Boys in Gold had a rough go at trying to crack the Louisville defense, mustering only one shot the entire first half.

Louisville broke the deadlock in the 24th minute. After conceding a corner, the Bourbon Boys elected to play the set piece short to Oscar Jimenez. Jimenez took a couple of dribbles before whipping in a low cross to a crowd of players. In that crowd was Paco Craig making a near post run, where he blasted it past Pickens for the 1-0 lead.

The Bourbon Boys doubled their lead in the 58th minute. Paolo DelPiccolo found the ball at his feet after what looked like an attempted shot from George Davis right inside the six-yard box. DelPiccolo was able to tuck it into the bottom part of the goal to make it 2-0.

Nashville was able to pull one back in the 68th minute when London Woodberry swung in a cross from the right side that met the head of Matt LaGrassa making a near post run right near the six-yard box.

Although there were plenty of chances in front of net, including another way-too-close Bradley Bourgeois header on a cross that was inches away, it just wasn’t meant to be for Nashville.

Louisville now moves on to the quarterfinal to take on Chicago Fire. Nashville returns to action in the USL Tuesday against Indy Eleven at First Tennessee Park.

 

World Cup Notebook: Dual Citizenship edition

So we’ve now played 1,260 minutes plus stoppage time of World Cup soccer, witnessing the overexposure of the White Stripes, bad Volkswagen commercials, some captivating matches, and a mosquito invasion. And it’s still only the group stage!

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If you missed the first notebook, you can go back and read it here.

Now, let’s dive into some of the talking points from the tournament, shall we?

Donovan’s new team: Although it’s hard to overshadow the fact that Mexico defeated the defending World champions Germany 1-0 Sunday, U.S. Men’s National Team legend Landon Donovan might have done that as the self-proclaimed newest fan of the Mexican national team.

In case you somehow missed it (although with social media, it’s impossible to miss anything), Donovan has aligned himself as a fan of Mexico for this year’s World Cup.

The move, which is part of a partnership with Wells Fargo, caused a bit of an uproar from purists of the U.S. Men’s National Team, including Donovan’s former teammates Carlos Bocanegra and Cobi Jones.

Jones somewhat nailed the reasoning on why this move should be frowned upon, considering the bitter rivalry these two are immersed in. However, Donovan spent the past couple of months in Mexico playing for Leon, so he has probably learned to appreciate the cultural impact the Mexican National team brings to the country. Still, it seems like a bit of a sellout on Donovan’s part just to make a quick buck.

I’m curious if the supporters of El Tri are on board with this, considering Donovan’s alleged antics at Jalisco Stadium in the past (Google it).

VAR is a WIN: The virtual assistant referee, commonly known as VAR, has been a big success in this year’s tournament. So far, it has helped reward teams with a couple of penalties in the box on some questionable judgement calls, and the decisions don’t disrupt the flow of play.

VAR had been implemented in a number of professional leagues prior, including MLS. The Premier League has gone against using it, but that could change if it continues to prove to be effective.

No system is perfect though, as VAR does have a miss.

Everyone loves Iceland: I’ll just leave this here.

This tournament is wide open: Belgium’s 3-0 win against Panama was the first win for a team in the FIFA top five rankings this tournament. That match, along with Russia’s 5-0 victory against Saudi Arabia and Croatia’s 2-0 win against Nigeria, are the only three matches so far that have been decided by more than one goal. We’ve also seen four late goals, with three of them resulting in a victory.  From what we’ve seen so far, there’s no clear cut favorite.

Oddsshark has Brazil currently as the betting favorite (+400) to win it all as of Monday, while Spain (+450), France (+700), Germany (+750), and Belgium (+900) to round out the top five. Only two of those teams listed came away with victories during their opening matches, so no one is truly safe.

Let Jorge Perez-Navarro call every match: Other than Derek Rae and Aly Wagner, Fox’s group of commentator teams have been pretty sub optimal during this tournament so far.

However, Jorge Perez-Navarro is a national treasure and we must protect him at all costs. [Disclaimer: This is not a consensus opinion among the Golden Goal crew…but Andy took the time to write this piece so he gets the final say!]

I’m glad I’m not alone on this.

Mensah’s late winner pushes Nashville unbeaten streak to 11

Nashville SC has extended its unbeaten run to 11 games.

For much of the game, it seemed like the game was going to result in a draw.

Enter super sub Ropapa Mensah, whose late heroics on Michael Reed’s free kick resulted in a 1-0 victory in the dying moments of stoppage time Saturday night.

Reed whipped in a free kick to the far post, where Bradley Bourgeious headed it into the danger zone. Mensah, who once again leads all Nashville SC scorers with five goals, poked the ball in from the scramble in the box. The win also moves Nashville into fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings.

“I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest to be honest,” said Bourgeious after he saw the goal hit the back of the net.

“I couldn’t hear, I was just screaming, I was turning around and everybody was running around, I was looking at Gary and he was off the bench. Guys were running everywhere, but I would just say my heart was beating out of my chest there. I was just so, so happy.”

 

Nashville’s lineup displayed above had some slight modifications. It lined up with Matt LaGrassa as a right winger, with Brandon Allen up top and Ish Jome to the left. Michael Reed and Lebo Moloto occupied the middle of the park, while Bolu Akinyode acted as a center defensive midfielder. Justin Davis, Liam Doyle, Bradley Bourgeois, and Kosuke Kimura formed the back line.

There wasn’t much separating the two sides in the first half, as both had their fair share of chances that they were unable to capitalize on. Both teams combined for a total of 16 shots (nine for Nashville, seven for Carolina), but were only able to put three on target (Nashville had two).

Lebo Moloto came closest in the 36th minute to putting the Boys in Gold ahead. A ball in the air was one-timed by LaGrassa into the path of Moloto, who connected with a shot that slid just past the far post of the goal.

Matt LaGrassa also had a wonderful opportunity prior to Moloto’s chance. His header looked like it was going into the top corner of the far post until Alex Tambakis tipped the attempt over the bar.

The match played out similarly to Argentina vs. Iceland in the World Cup earlier today, where one team dominated possession and the other absorbed as much pressure as possible. Nashville took the possession advantage 64-36, but still couldn’t capitalize on any of its chances until the late winner.

“I’m not quite sure where to start. You certainly don’t get too many of these evenings. There’s so much excitement in the final moments,” said Nashville SC coach Gary Smith.

“As the second half unfolded, it was going to be about patience, some individual moments, good combination play to break them down. I have to give a lot of credit to them. I thought they did a very good job and had a tough game in the middle of the week. We’re obviously confident coming here and for a large part of the game, while we created chances, we couldn’t find that moment. I generally feel we deserve to win. The way to came about all a part of the passion and excitement of building a brand-new club.”

Nashville now looks to a midweek date in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Wednesday at Louisville City FC. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. at Lynn Stadium on the campus of University of Louisville.

World Cup Notebook: Chapter One

We made it, boys and girls. The 2018 FIFA World Cup is off and running. Your bosses might as well embrace the fact that there will be zero productivity over the next couple of weeks. Hopefully they’re right with you streaming the games in their offices.

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Here’s some thoughts on what we’ve seen so far.

Better than MJ?:  Not even tax evasion and a Spanish national team unbeaten in now 20-straight contests could stop Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo’s effortless free kick secured him a hat trick and allowed his Portugal side to split a point with Spain, who looked more like 2010 Spain instead of 2014 Spain. It actually seemed like the Spanish were surely going to take all three points after the Nacho goal and their mesmerizing passing until Ronaldo’s free kick put everything level.

Let’s also take a moment to appreciate this crisp Nacho goal, by the way.

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Now, the question is, can Ronaldo continue to do this and carry his country on his back for two more games and beyond? You’d certainly fancy them against Morocco and Iran moving forward.

Your move, Messi.

From Russia with five: The host’s five-goal performance in the opening day against Saudi Arabia does put the Russians in a great position early in Group A, but I wouldn’t read into it too much. This Russian side is still vastly inexperienced (15 of the 23 players on the squad have 20 or less international caps to their name), and they took advantage of a pretty sloppy Saudi team.

But let’s not be distracted from the best memes this game produced courtesy of Vladimir Putin.

No Salah, Mo problems: If Egypt’s Mo Salah is “fit,” WHY WOULDN’T YOU PLAY HIM?? Look, maybe the belief  in the Egypt camp is to try and collect a point from a Uruguay side who were favored on paper, and just save Salah for the other games where three points are much more attainable.

However, Egypt were fantastic defensively and had frustrated Luis Suarez and company throughout the match. Perhaps bringing on Salah in 65th or 70th minute gives the side an extra boost towards three points, giving them a huge advantage heading into the next match.

Instead, the Pharoahs elected to absorb more and more pressure, giving up a couple of really bad fouls near the edge of their box in the dying moments.

One of those fouls cost them.

MorocNO: I was going to skip over this game, but then this happened. It’s been a bad week for Morocco.

Anyways, the first two full days of games have concluded, with a full slate coming Saturday morning starting bright and early at 5 a.m central time. Start brewing your coffee.