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Summary: Nashville was wasteful and sloppy in 3-1 loss to Miami

Nashville SC took the lead against Inter Miami CF in Fort Lauderdale, but self-inflicted mistakes proved costly as the Herons won 3-1.

The XI

Gary Smith stuck with the back three he has used in recent weeks. Dan Lovitz once again played a more central role, with Josh Bauer still favored over Jack Maher. Elliot Panicco got his third straight start, while Randall Leal would make his season debut off the bench after missing the first eleven games due to injury.

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On the field

Nashville’s game plan was reminiscent of their plan in the Leagues Cup. They pushed high out of the gate and made Miami feel uncomfortable in the first twenty minutes. It paid off; they scored after just two minutes through an own goal by Franco Negri. Minutes later, they nearly doubled the lead when Josh Bauer’s shot bounced off the crossbar and across the goal line.

The misses proved costly, and the subsequent defensive mistakes hurt even more. In the 11th minute, Bauer tried to move high to challenge Lionel Messi but missed, allowing the goat to get free in the box. Panicco did well to block the initial save and Aníbal Godoy almost cleared the follow-up, but Luis Suárez’s scuffed shot found Messi wide open on the edge of the six-yard box for an easy finish.

Just six minutes later, Nashville had a golden opportunity to take the lead again when Bauer found Hany Mukhtar wide open in space. But the 2022 MVP opted to take the shot himself from close range and his square pass to Sam Surridge was woefully underplayed, allowing Tómas Aviles to deflect the cross and then clear the shot.

Despite a handful of chances from Mukhtar throughout the remainder of the game, Nashville’s mistakes continued to pile up. Elliot Panicco was shockingly in possession and conceded a corner from a routine back pass on the edge of his penalty area. Minutes later he almost conceded a goal after attempting to pass the ball from his back, forcing Lukas MacNaughton into a goal-line clearance. Sergio Busquets scored from the subsequent corner kick.

In the 80th minute, another mistake put the match out of reach. Substitute Leo Afonso took a touch away from goal in the top corner of the penalty area, but instead of waiting and resetting Bauer dove in and clearly fouled the 22-year-old, giving Messi a second goal from the penalty spot.

The big picture

Taking a step back, there are plenty of positives for Nashville. Mukhtar was deeply involved; his 60 touches were the most so far this season, as were his nine touches in the box. His three shots were his second-highest yet. He and Surridge still haven’t figured out their connection, but the odds were good.

Nashville’s intensity and game plan were much improved. Even on the road against the Supporters’ Shield leaders, they didn’t approach the match like a 14th-place team. They were intense from the opening whistle, finally pressing as Gary Smith had promised in preseason, and took Miami by surprise.

But the defensive mistakes were the same ones they’ve made all season. Without Walker Zimmerman organizing the backline, they were so prone to unforced errors. No one was more to blame than Elliot Panicco, who was taken off the pitch at half-time during Gary Smith’s first-ever goalkeeping change at half-time after a truly shocking performance with the ball at his feet.

And to make matters worse, Lukas MacNaughton was stretchered off in the second half after his left boot got stuck in the bushes and rolled ugly under him. Smith said after the game that it didn’t appear to be broken, but x-rays in Nashville will confirm more. It certainly looks set to be a long absence for MacNaughton, who has clearly become the second-choice centre-back and was set to team up with a finally healthy Zimmerman.

Nashville will take on Wooden Spoon San Jose leaders next week at Geodis Park. It’s as close to a must-win game as they’ve ever had this early in a season.

Post-match quotes

Statistics

Possess: MIA 52% – 48% NSH
Passes completed: MIA 336 – 393 NSH
Recordings: MIA 10 – 13 NSH
Shots on target: MIA 7 – 5 NSH
Penalties: MIA 1 – 0 NSH
Expected goals: MIA 1.87 – 2.49 NSH
Goals: MIA 3 – 1 NSH
Violations: MIA 14 – 12 NSH
Yellow cards: MIA 2 – 1 NSH
Red cards: MIA 0 – 0 NSH

Author: Ben Wrightis director of soccer content and senior MLS contributor for Broadway Sports for Nashville SC and the U.S. National Team. Previously, Ben was the editor and founder of Speedway Soccer, where he covered Nashville SC and their time at USL before moving to Major League Soccer since 2018. KY Ben grew up playing in Louisville before a knee injury ended his competitive career. When he’s not talking about football, he’s probably producing music, drinking coffee, or hanging out with his wife and kids. Mastodon