Michael Cox wrote his name into Nashville SC’s history book after scoring the game winning goal against Bethlehem Steel FC on Saturday. The Boys in Gold claimed their first victory and an important three points on the road, but this team still has a lot of work to do.
It took roughly 186 minutes for Nashville to put the ball in the back of the net after being shutout against Louisville City FC and Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Cox calmly slotted a penalty kick past Bethlehem’s goalkeeper Jake McGuire in the sixth minute of play.
Nashville won the penalty kick after Bethlehem defender Brandon Aubrey yanked Cox to the ground on a clear scoring chance just outside the box in the fifth minute. The head referee took a few minutes to confer with his linesman before sending Aubrey off with a Red Card. Cox’s breakaway was created by a great ball over the top from Justin Davis.
Alan Winn and Taylor Washington definitely added pace to Nashville’s starting lineup, but the team is still looking for its first goal from open play. Cox made strong runs in the first half using his size and speed to put Bethlehem’s defenders on their heels.
Despite nine shots inside Bethlehem’s penalty box, Nashville is still struggling to find the right way to finish. The Boys in Gold took a total of 12 shots with seven on target.
It is worrisome for Nashville, a team with a man-up advantage, could not finish off Bethlehem. Multiple players had good looks on goal for Nashville, but either missed the target or lost the ball in the box. Cox and Winn each ended with three shots on target.
Credit Bethlehem for playing strong after going a man down. The Steel won the possession battle 51 percent to 49 percent and put four shots on target in the second half. Bethlehem finished with 13 shots, one more than Nashville.
If not for a few spectacular saves from Matt Pickens, Nashville could have easily headed home with a 1-1 draw or 2-1 loss.
Nashville now has a record of 1-1-1 and will play its next home game on April 7 at 7:30 p.m. inside First Tennessee Park against the Charlotte Independence.
Pickens’ Second Clean Sheet
Pickens was forced to make his first save of the game in the 51st minute on a long shot from Eric Ayuk outside the box.
He kept the clean sheet intact after making not one, but two incredible saves less than five minutes later. Pickens made a diving save off a free kick from James Chambers and put his body in front of the rebound from Adam Najem.
Man of the Match
The USL named Lebo Moloto the Man of the Match. Moloto finished with 93 percent passing accuracy in Bethlehem’s half and created two scoring chances.
Changes to Nashville’s Starting XI
Nashville head coach Gary Smith made five changes to the starting lineup against Bethlehem. Winn made his first appearance starting at left forward along Michael Cox, which was the third starting forward combination this season.
Washington cracked the starting lineup at left wingback after coming in as a sub for Kosuke Kimura in the previous two games. With Washington starting on the left, Ryan James moved to right wingback and Bolu Akinyode got his first start in the midfield after replacing Matt LaGrassa in the 77th minute against Pittsburgh.
Matt LaGrassa came in for Moloto in the 63rd minute as Nashville’s first sub. Ropapa Mensah replaced Cox in the 71st minute. Kosuke Kimura replaced James in the 72nd minute.
Nashville Starting Formation: 3-5-2
- GK: Pickens
- Defenders: Davis, Doyle, Bourgeois
- Midfielders: Washington, Reed, Akinyode, Moloto, James
- Forwards: Winn, Cox
Bethlehem Starting Formation: 4-2-3-1
- GK: McGuire
- Defenders: Chiluya, Aubrey, Mahoney, Ayuk
- Defensive Midfielders: Chambers, Catalano
- Midfielders: Moar, Najem, Epps
- Forward: Allen