Fall may have arrived in the Music City, but Nashville Soccer Club rose to the occasion at Nissan Stadium on Saturday night as the Boys in Gold clinched a home match in the USL Championship Playoffs with a 2-0 win over North Carolina FC. Lebo Moloto was the magician again for Nashville SC with a goal and an assist in a Man of the Match performance.
Nashville SC now guarantees itself at least one playoff match in front of the home fans at First Tennessee Park in two weeks, the first home playoff match in club history. While Nashville won’t know it’s official seed and opponent in the playoffs until after the final weekend of the season, it is assured of at least a top two seed and two potential home playoff matches.
The opening goal of the night came from a corner kick off Moloto’s boot that found the head of forward Ropapa Mensah inside the six-yard box at the 32’ minute mark. It was Mensah’s seventh goal in all competitions this season and Moloto’s 10th assist, a team-high.
In the second half, it was Moloto’s turn to have a header find the net. Off a counter attack, winger Taylor Washington sent a perfect ball to the on-rushing Moloto who went back across goal to find side-netting for his fifth of the season.
The defense again showed why it’s the best in the USL Championship, earning its 15th clean sheet of the season while allowing just two shots on target in the 90 minutes from North Carolina. Nashville SC has also yet to allow a goal in its four matches at Nissan Stadium over the last two seasons.
Here are three takeaways from the victory.
1) Top Two in the East
Nashville SC’s win, coupled with a draw in the Indy Eleven and Tampa Bay Rowdies match, confirmed that Nashville would finish in a top two spot in the Eastern Conference and could still win the East with dropped points by Pittsburgh in its season finale. Everything will be at stake in next Saturday’s match at First Tennessee Park against Atlanta United 2 at 7 p.m. as Nashville can lay claim to the number one seed.
2) No Goals Allowed at Nissan
The defense for Nashville SC at Nissan Stadium has been pristine through the four matches the club has played at its future MLS home over the last two USL Championship seasons. Two 0-0 draws last season and two 2-0 wins this season have made Nissan a fortress for Nashville SC and its fans.
3) Pickens In Line for Gold
With a league-leading 13th clean sheet of the USL Championship season, Nashville SC keeper Matt Pickens extending his lead in the Golden Glove race with just one match in the season. Pickens’ goals against average now sits at 0.67 for the season with just 16 goals allowed in 24 matches. He leads Phoenix Rising’s Zac Lubin who has allowed 22 goals in 27 matches, but has yet to play tonight.
Up Next Nashville SC will play its final regular season match at First Tennessee Park next Saturday night against Atlanta United 2. NSC is 4-0-0 against Atlanta United 2 in club history, and could clinch the East’s number one seed with a win.