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Nashville SC fall 2-0 to Columbus Crew SC to begin Phase Two of season restart

The Tennessean (Nashville) logo The Tennessean (Nashville) 9/20/2020 Drake Hills, Nashville Tennessean
a man with a football ball on a field: Sep 19, 2020; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Crew SC midfielder Luis Diaz (12) shoots the ball while Nashville SC goalkeeper Joe Willis (1) dives for the ball in the first half at MAPFRE Stadium. © Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports Sep 19, 2020; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Crew SC midfielder Luis Diaz (12) shoots the ball while Nashville SC goalkeeper Joe Willis (1) dives for the ball in the first half at MAPFRE Stadium.

It was a game featuring just a sliver of chances in front of goal, and such a stalemate left an even slimmer margin for error. To Nashville SC's dismay, it took one mistake for Columbus Crew SC to steal momentum and then a 2-0 win Saturday at MAPFRE Stadium. 

True grit became the theme shortly after referee Silviu Petrescu blew his whistle for kickoff in Ohio. Within five minutes, Nashville winger Alex Muyl's challenge on eventual goal-scorer Pedro Santos set the tone for 17 fouls called in numerous stoppages in play.

Saturday's Phase Two premiere didn't see a shot on goal until the Crew's Pedro Santos sent a left-footed rocket past Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis in the 49th minute. Much of the work was done by Crew striker Gyasi Zardes, who picked off Walker Zimmerman along the right-side touchline and broke in on goal.

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Zardes took two dribbles toward Willis before passing it 10 yards to his right to Santos, who stood atop the 18-yard box, took his two touches and then sent the ball into the top left corner.

Here are three takeaways from Saturday's game between Nashville and Columbus:  

a man playing a game of football: Nashville SC midfielder Hany Mukhtar (10) dribbles the ball while Columbus Crew SC midfielder Youness Mokhtar (34) defends in the first half at MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday. © Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports Nashville SC midfielder Hany Mukhtar (10) dribbles the ball while Columbus Crew SC midfielder Youness Mokhtar (34) defends in the first half at MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday.

Genesis of the loss 

Alistair Johnston and Zimmerman were pinned to the touchline with two Crew players closing them down. Zimmerman was unable to play the ball up field, or a back pass to Willis, before Zardes arrived. Before that, Nashville held onto momentum with white knuckles, for Nashville was in the driver's seat en route to a draw, if not a win.

Coach Gary Smith said the pendulum-swinging turnover has left Zimmerman kicking himself.

"It's something that he's disappointed about, and so is the group, given how we equipped ourselves (to play Columbus)," Smith said. "There were some terrific displays. I thought the team unit itself — with and without the ball — were spot on.

"There was a lot of work that went into this in limiting such a talented side, away from home," Smith continued. "I was very pleased. I just could not see a way that (Columbus) were gonna break the deadlock."

Slim pickings

The definition for a shot save can't be bent. But if it could, Crew center back Jonathan Mensah would have recorded a save in the 28th minute.

From a Nashville free kick from nearly 40 yards out, Room needed to come off his goal line for a punching clearance that landed to Anibal Godoy. The Nashville center midfielder took a swipe at the ball from just inside the 18-yard box that was destined for goal if it wasn't for Mensah who intercepted the shot, falling on his backside. 

Nashville's official two shots on target were when forward Dominique Badji cut in from the left flank in the 61st minute and played a low cross to Alex Muyl, but the diving attempt was saved by Room.

An advancing Zimmerman found himself on the end of a Badji cross from the right flank in the 86th minute inside the 18-yard box. The center back controlled the lob pass, took a touch to his right but Room's dive was enough to keep it out.

The goals from Santos and Zardes were the Crew's only shots on target Saturday. 

Stymieing the Crew 

After the game, Nashville central midfielder Anibal Godoy said coach Gary Smith emphasized before kickoff the importance to remain compact in the middle.

Godoy and his midfield mates were ordered to clamp down on Crew attacking midfielder Artur and to watch out for winger Luis Diaz on counter attacks, when the Crew broke Nashville's high press.

Diaz went on to have two shots in the game, with one forcing a Joe Willis block in the 60th minute. But though Godoy said he thought Nashville handled the Crew for the first half and the beginning of the second, failing to punish them on the other end is an unavoidable reason for dropping points.

"If we don't score the goal on the other end, it's so difficult to win," he said.

Alan Winn

With Randall Leal, Abu Danladi and David Accam all sidelined, the 24-year-old winger that represented Nashville at USL level made his first MLS start Saturday.

Winn played 62 minutes before he was subbed on for Daniel Rios.

Before kickoff, Winn stood for the national anthem, as both platoons of starting players knelt. The winger was not made available to the media after the game. Yet Smith spoke highly of the former USL standout.

a group of young men playing a game of football: Nashville SC forward Alan Winn (19) shoots past Columbus Crew SC defender Harrison Afful (25) during the first half at MAPFRE Stadium. © Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports Nashville SC forward Alan Winn (19) shoots past Columbus Crew SC defender Harrison Afful (25) during the first half at MAPFRE Stadium.

"We support our guys and we support everyone's opinion and the way that they want to express themselves," Smith said of Winn's decision. "And what I do know is this — Alan, and the rest of the group, are a very tight-knit unit. And I have no doubt in my mind there would have been (prior) discussions in the locker room. Alan's one of the most supportive and decent individuals that you're likely to meet, so I wouldn't read into that too much."

A club representative told reporters Winn's father is a chief of police.

Up next

Nashville SC returns to Nissan Stadium Wednesday to face D.C. United and host Houston Dynamo Saturday for the first day game in its MLS era.

For stories about Nashville SC or Soccer in Tennessee, contact Drake Hills at DHills@gannett.com. Follow Drake on Twitter at @LiveLifeDrake.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Nashville SC fall 2-0 to Columbus Crew SC to begin Phase Two of season restart

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