Nashville SC won its first home opener at Nissan Stadium, topping a challenging Indy Eleven club 2-0 Saturday night.
The team came onto the pitch with the hopes of scoring its first points and getting its first win at its future home. Nashville SC had played two games at Nissan Stadium before Saturday night’s game, and the others ended in 0-0 draws.
The game was in physical stalemate, with neither team able to push past each other’s back line until the 23rd minute.
That’s when Nashville SC forward Daniel Rios kicked off the scoring after a dynamic display of passing and speed. Rios took a long clear and ran with the ball, attacking the left side of the field. He crossed it over to Michael Reed, who sent it back his way. Rios took this pass and fed the ball into the back corner of the net.
This goal gave Nashville its first ever score at Nissan Stadium and put the club up 1-0 halfway through the first period.
The club continued its domination of Indy Eleven and scored again in the first half.
In the 41st minute, midfielder Alan Winn scored in the box after working the ball and his defender to the center of the goal. Winn gave the ball a light pop up and sent it sailing into the back of the net, out of reach of the goalie.
“I just saw a great through ball from Michael Reed,” Winn said. “He gave the ball to Leebo in a great pocket and I was waiting out there for my time, he played a wonderful ball through, then it was my job to do what I do and score.”
Winn received player-of-the-game honors for his offensive efforts.
In the second period, neither team was able to score. With the return of centerback Ken Tribbett, Nashville SC’s defense looked in to be in postseason form.
“It was wonderful getting back out on that field and helping my team get a shutout. This is what we live for,” Tribbett said.
The club’s clean sheet came all the way down to the 88th minute, when goalie Matt Pickens made a diving save to keep the shutout intact. This marks Nashville’s second consecutive clean sheet, the longest streak in USL.
“Well, I suspected it would be a very tough and difficult evening, and it proved to be that way,” head coach Gary Smith said. “If you want to be in a position to compete for silverware, you have to be able to create. Somehow you have to find a way to get your creative players into the game.
“I felt we did that in the first period. You also have to be able to prevent their more creative plays, and I felt that we did that in the second period, when they started to get more of a stranglehold on the game. Either way, I felt we showed all of the qualities to win it and win it in a rather emphatic way.”
The club was able to secure the win in front of a crowd of more than 13,000 people. That was the fifth-largest attendance at a USL game this season.
“It’s exciting to play for a crowd like that. You get hyped up a little more,” Winn said. “It’s crazy to see how Nashville has grown and how committed they are to soccer over these past two years.”
With this win, Nashville SC finds itself in the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference, with 35 points. As the season passes the halfway mark, the club is just two points away from jumping into the third spot and securing home-field advantage during the postseason.
The team will go on the road to face the Swope Park Rangers at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas, on Saturday. It will then head back to Nissan Stadium for a game against Hartford Athletic on Aug. 7.