A brilliant one-touch half volley goal in the 79’ minute from forward Kharlton Belmar gave Nashville SC a massive 2-1 road win at Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday evening in St. Petersburg, Fla. The win moves Nashville to second place in the USL Championship Eastern Conference at the end of the night.
A lofted through ball from defender Bradley Bourgeois sprung Belmar free. The forward took just one touch and fired it inside the far post on the fly. The goal was Belmar’s third of the season and came after he head coach Gary Smith had inserted him into the match as a substitute less than 10 minutes earlier in the 71’ minute.
The win over Tampa Bay was the first for Nashville SC in the club’s brief two-year history following two losses and a draw in the three previous meetings. Nashville SC leapfrogged Tampa in the standings with the victory, taking sole possession of second place in the East with seven matches left in the season.
Nashville opened the scoring just before halftime in the 44’ minute when Cameron Lancaster won a free kick just outside the Rowdies 18-yard box. Lancaster took the free kick low and forced a save from Tampa keeper John McCarthy. The rebound from McCarthy found an on-rushing Lebo Moloto who immediately sent the ball into the net to give Nashville the lead.
The Rowdies bounced right back immediately in the second half when Sebastian Guenzatti equalized on a cross through the box. However, deft substitutions from Smith, bringing on Belmar and fellow winger Alan Winn, spun the match back in Nashville’s favor late in the match.
Here are three takeaways from the big Nashville SC win.
1) Road Warriors Yet Again
The win was Nashville SC’s ninth on the road, more than double its total away from home last season (4). Coming against Tampa Bay, a team that has spent the majority of the season on top of the Eastern Conference standings, makes it even more impressive. Nashville SC had to weather Tampa Bay’s attack, which pressed all match behind its home fans. The nine road wins, and 30 road points, are the most for any team in the East. With just two road matches left on its schedule, Nashville could win 11 of 17 road matches in 2019, an impressive possibility.
2) Defense Stands Tall
Pickens and the Nashville SC defense put in a monumental performance on the road in a tough environment. Tampa Bay took 20 shots, including eight on target, and Nashville SC allowed just the one goal. The 20 shots and eight shots on target both tie the most against Pickens and Nashville in the club’s two-year history. The seven saves are a Nashville SC record for Pickens who made several point-blank stops despite taking numerous hits inside the box. One of those hits forced Pickens into a jersey change in stoppage time, but the keeper held just as firm in an 84 jersey as he did in his usual number 18.
3) Bourgeois and Belmar Combine for Winner
Both Bradley Bourgeois and Kharlton Belmar have found themselves on the outside looking in at a starting spot for stretches during the 2019 season, but the pair combined for one of the biggest goals of the season to secure three points for Nashville SC. Bourgeois lofted a ball over the top and led Belmar on a break who one-touched it past McCarthy into the net. For Bourgeois, it was the second consecutive start after no starts in the previous seven matches, and his first assist of the season. It was the third goal for Belmar, and the second in the last three weeks following a road goal against Charlotte Independence.
Nashville SC will have its penultimate road match of the season next Saturday night when it takes on Saint Louis FC in the St. Louis suburbs on September 7. Saint Louis beat Nashville earlier this season 1-0 at First Tennessee Park, but has since fallen outside of the playoff picture, winning once in its last 15 matches. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. CT and the match will be broadcast on MyTV30.