Almost 19,000 fans braved the rain to witness history in Nashville on Saturday night as Nashville SC earned its first result, a 0-0 draw against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, and its first shutout in Nissan Stadium in front on a historic crowd.
“The support was terrific,” said head coach Gary Smith. “All along I said that there needs to be a relationship that is built between player and fans. Today went a long way toward that. I think the players felt that there was a feeling in the crowd. They got behind us when we got on top; they tried desperately to raise the group…”
While the crowd made the atmosphere lively off the field, Smith made a couple of changes to the starting XI that took the field in Louisville last week, looking for a spark. Center back Bradley Bourgeois and forward Tucker Hume joined the starting lineup. With his 6’5” frame, Hume gave Nashville’s offense a different dimension in the front, adding height and physicality.
On a wet field, neither team was able to grab a foothold offensively with the squads combining for one shot on target in the opening 45 minutes. Nashville SC controlled much of the opening possession winning the battle with 56% of the ball.
“For large periods of the game it was extremely competitive,” said Smith. “There were limited goal mouth opportunities or activity. I’ve looked at some of the stats…I will say actual penalty box entries, efforts on goal, shots on target were not high, and the game was played in the middle third.”
In the second half, Nashville and Pittsburgh both ramped up the offense as the Riverhounds came out of the locker room looking dangerous. The best opportunity for the visitors came in the 52’ minute when Christiano François hit the post. Nashville SC keeper Matt Pickens then rose to the occasion on two other Pittsburgh chances, making a pair of world-class saves.
The final 15 minutes, Nashville SC pressed hard to find a winner in front of its home fans. Central midfielder Lebo Moloto took five of his six shots in the final 15 minutes, including a powerful side-volley which was cleared off the line by a Riverhounds defender.
“I seriously thought it was going in,” said Moloto. “They were all pushed up in front, and it was a good cross. It would’ve been nice if it would’ve went in. Pretty sure we [in the postgame press conference] would’ve been talking about something else right now. I would’ve been happy if it would’ve went in.”
Ultimately, both teams would have to settle for the point and look ahead to the first win of the season next week.
“We’ve got a good foundation and were still trying to create that identity little by little and game by game,” said Pickens. “Taking a step in the right direction again, so it’s back to work on Monday and looking forward to the next game and working on getting that 3 points.”
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