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.