Nashville SC wasn’t able to find the back of the net Sunday against the Portland Timbers and for the second straight match, the few scoring chances Nashville conceded came back to haunt them in the end. This time it did in a 1-0 loss.
As it happened one week ago against Atlanta, an unmarked Portland player had time and space before striking a ball past Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis to break the scoring deadlock. Sunday’s match at Providence Park in Portland was Nashville’s first regular season away match and against a Western Conference foe as it still searches for its first MLS victory.
Here’s three observations from the match:
Small mistake leads to big goal
A soft clearance from Anibal Godoy found Portland’s Andy Polo just a few yards outside the penalty box. Diego Valeri stood between Polo and the goal, splitting Walker Zimmerman and Eric Miller – neither of them in arm’s length of Valeri. Polo picked out the Argentine and without a setup touch, Valeri volleyed the ball past Willis with his right foot for the lone goal.
When Polo passed the ball to Valeri, Miller was a few yards behind the Portland captain, qualifying Valeri to be on-side. It’s Miller’s second defensive mishap, after the right back failed to communicate with winger David Accam last week against Atlanta and left Ezequiel Barco unmarked just moments before Barco scored an uncontested goal.
Statistically, Portland were equal with Atlanta in the attacking third against Nashville, recording just two shots on goal in the entire matches, respectively. Atlanta used both shots to defeat Nashville. Portland only needed one of its three.
Nashville recorded three shots on goal out of a total 11.
Responding to adversity
After Valeri’s goal in the 12th minute, Nashville didn’t test Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark until the 40th minute, when Randall Leal’s dipping shot forced Clark to dive.
So far this season, Nashville has not faced a side that has dominated the full 90 minutes in the attacking third. However, following an opposition’s goal, the defensive high press and urgency in attack has diminished.
In its first two MLS matches, Nashville has out-shot its opponent on goal, 8-4, and has passed the ball more accurately. Nashville recorded an 83-percent passing completion against Atlanta’s 82 percent on Feb. 29 and 82 percent against Portland’s 80 percent Sunday. Nashville connected a whopping 534 passes, but failed to create one that would lead to a goal.
An unfriendly schedule
The schedule gets steeper for Nashville, looking ahead to Saturday’s match against MLS Cup finalist Toronto FC as another challenge on the road. Nashville isn’t scheduled to return to Nissan Stadium until March 21 for a battle with Columbus Crew SC. Both Toronto and Columbus have won and drew in their first two matches, respectively.
For stories about Nashville SC or Soccer in Tennessee, contact Drake Hills at DHills@gannett.com. Follow Drake on Twitter at @LiveLifeDrake.