Nashville SC mows Montreal 1-0

Nashville SC (7W-6L-7D, 28 pts.) beat the Montreal Impact (7W-12L-2D, 23 pts.) 1-0 in the Impact’s temporary home of Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. on Tuesday night, taking another major step toward playoff qualification in its inaugural Major League Soccer season.

The Boys in Gold are surging down the stretch, going unbeaten in their last four matches, winning three of them and earning 10 points while outscoring opponents 8-2 in that span. Nashville now sits in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, seven points above the playoff line with three matches left in the regular season.

Randall Leal kept up his fine form, scoring his second goal in his last three matches to go with two assists during that time frame. He and winger Alex Muyl combined for the tally. Muyl sparked the move with a brilliant quickly-taken free kick that sent Leal through on goal to score with no defenders in sight in the 33rd minute. Leal’s goal was his third of the season, tying him for the most on the team with striker Daniel Ríos, attacker Hany Mukhtar, and center-back Walker Zimmerman. Leal also completed four dribbles in the match and combined with Muyl to recover the ball 15 times.

Nashville SC kept its ninth clean sheet of its inaugural season in Tuesday’s match, extending goalkeeper Joe Willis’ career high and tying for the league-lead with Toronto FC and Columbus Crew. The defense  was tasked with keeping lots of attacking talent quiet, including former FC Barcelona attacker Bojan, former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Victor Wanyama and forward Romell Quioto, who has seven goals and five assists on the season. The group of Willis, ex-Impact left-back Dan Lovitz, Dave Romney, Walker Zimmerman and Alistair Johnston laid the foundation for the victory, and the midfield swarmed Impact attackers when they received the ball in space.

The deep-lying midfield duo of Dax McCarty and Aníbal Godoy held the center of the park well against the conference’s joint-third most prolific offense. They combined for three tackles, three interceptions and nine recoveries while only committing one foul between them both. The two stayed disciplined and picked their spots regarding when to rush into tackles, and it paid dividends on the scoreboard.

Dan Lovitz spent three seasons with the Montreal Impact before NSC acquired him for allocation money. Nashville used the left-back as one of its main outlets for transitioning from defense to attack, as he completed three dribbles, two key passes, and took free kicks and three of the team’s corners. He also made nine recoveries, four interceptions and two clearances on the defensive end in a match he influenced regularly.