As Dax McCarty sent a pass Dave Romney’s way across the penalty box in the 63rd minute of Sunday’s match against Real Salt Lake, Romney was out of position and could only watch as teammate Walker Zimmerman collected the ball and fired a shot away.
Romney, however, got a second chance after Zimmerman’s shot was blocked by Real Salt Lake defender Aaron Herrera, and the rebound came right to his feet. Romney buried his second goal of the season, giving Nashville SC its first win in nearly a month and its first home win at Geodis Park.
“I'm kind of just right place, right time,” Romney said. “CJ [Sapong] won the first header off the set piece and then the goalie tried to come out for it. Dax kind of hit the ball across really quickly. I whiffed on the first one that came across me, went straight to Walker. He got it on frame, and they made a really, really good save. It just popped out to me. Right place, right time and I finished it.”
Sapong scored a goal of his own in the 92nd minute as midfielder Luke Haakenson hit him in stride in the middle of the 18-yard box. Haakenson’s pass turned around RSL defender Justen Glad, as Sapong slowed down just enough to tap the ball with the inside of his right foot past RSL keeper Zac MacMath for the 2-0 advantage.
“Just training with Luke over this time, I know he’s a guy and wants to take it clear on and put the ball in the box,” Sapong said of his goal sequence. “I just tried to get it in the box and the credit to Luke for finding me and at that point it was instinct and it fortunately, for me, it went in the goal.”
Although NSC had a respectable 3-3-2 record in the first eight matches of the season — all on the road — the club has looked much stronger in two matches at Geodis Park.
Nashville outshot Real Salt Lake 19-6, including a 10-0 mark in the first half, and controlled possession 54 percent of the time to RSL’s 46 percent. NSC had similar numbers in last week’s home opener against Philadelphia (the top team in the Eastern Conference), controlling possession 59.8 percent to 40.2 percent and outshooting the Union 15-10.
"Absolutely delighted [with the win] as you can well imagine especially after the party atmosphere last week,” NSC coach Gary Smith said. “Unfortunately, we couldn't make it a fairy tale last week and tonight's game add a little bit more pressure attached to ourselves. You get those first two home games under your belt you want to make sure that you're moving in the right direction.”
On the road, Nashville played the role of counter puncher, but at home, the team has been much more the aggressor — something Smith credited the team for building on over the last two weeks.
“I think we saw tonight some reinforcement of some the quality from last week, especially in the early stages — a lot of pressure and some of the stats stood out very well for us today,” he said. “The fact that they didn’t have a shot on goal or shot in the first period was, you know, testimony to how the guys went about their business.”
Added Romney: “It's just so easy to sit in, just take like chance after chance from other teams. We saw it in LA. We saw it in a couple other places. Then the complete change in the first game against Philly. … It's just building more and more confidence. If you keep doing this, more and more games, I think we're just going to start getting better and better and just have kind of a swagger about us, knowing when we come to games here, we're going to get results. We need to keep capitalizing on those chances that we are creating the first half.”
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