Nashville Soccer Club eased to a 2-0 victory over in-state rival Memphis 901 FC on Wednesday night in the Bluff City, behind goals from debutant Jimmy Ockford and USL Championship leading scorer Daniel Ríos. It’s the second 2-0 win against Memphis for Nashville SC this season, completing the Tennessee Two-Step over the inaugural season club.
The first half wasn’t without a nervy moment for Nashville fans. It looked like Memphis 901 had gone ahead early in the 9’ minute when former Nashville SC and current Memphis forward Brandon Allen tapped in a goal after chaos in the box. Celebrations ensued but the assistant referee had his flag raised, disallowing the goal for offside. After a long discussion between referees, the call stood and Memphis players were left to fume over the decision.
In the 42’ minute, it was Nashville SC that struck first. A set piece won by Nashville SC in its offensive half led to cross into the box from midfielder Lebo Moloto. A slight touch was all Ockford needed to redirect the point perfect cross inside the far post to give Nashville the lead.
Early in the second half, Nashville’s leading man found his 12th goal of the season. A through ball from Alan Winn sent Ríos in all alone in the box. The league’s leading scorer made no mistake, firing high into the net to double the lead. The goal puts Ríos into a tie atop the USL Championship’s goal leaders with Phoenix Rising FC forward Solomon Asante.
From there, Nashville SC salted the victory away, taking state bragging rights and continuing its quest for a second consecutive USL Cup Playoff appearance. Memphis meanwhile languishes near the bottom of the table, with just 15 points in 18 total matches.
Here are three takeaways from the victory:
1) Immediate Impact
Newly acquired defender Jimmy Ockford earned an immediate start for Nashville SC at center back, and made an instant impact, scoring the opening goal of the match on a set piece late in the first half. It was the first goal for the defender since the 2017 season, but it couldn’t have come at a better time as it gave Nashville the lead. While the loan for Ockford is just short-term, the San Jose Earthquakes defender has already proven his value with the goal and contributing to the clean sheet for Nashville.
2) Much Needed Clean Sheet
It hasn’t been a great run lately for the Nashville defense, giving up eight goals in its last four matches. The clean sheet on Wednesday night against a rival was the perfect remedy. It’s the 7th clean sheet of the year for the Nashville backline and 5th of the year for keeper Matt Pickens who made three big saves.
3) Ríos at the Top
The second consecutive match with a Daniel Ríos goal puts the Mexican forward in a tie at the top of the USL Championship leaders with 12 goals this season. Ríos was the club’s first MLS signing in the offseason, and he has shown why all season, with 12 goals in 19 matches. He is on his way to becoming the first player in USL Championship history to scored 20 goals in consecutive seasons and potentially winning the league’s Golden Boot for being the top scorer at the end of the season.
Nashville SC’s premier match of the summer is now on deck as Nashville will take on Indy Eleven at Nissan Stadium on July 27 at 7 p.m. The matchup will allow fans a preview of Nashville SC at Nissan leading into the 2020 MLS season. Tickets are available here.