Nashville SC players celebrate one of their three goals in the club’s 3-2 win over South Georgia Tormenta FC 2 in the Second Round of the 2019 US Open Cup. Photo: Jay Wilkinson | Nashville SC
A matchup between a USL Championship side and a League Two team may look like a blowout before the game even kicks off, but that wasn’t the case tonight in the Nashville area. While Nashville SC still earned the win, South Georgia Tormenta 2 was able to keep the contest close throughout. In the end, it’s survive and advance, and NSC did just that with the 3-2 victory.
“They look a wonderful team, I’ve got to say,” said Nashville head coach Gary Smith. “For an amateur group, they have performed at a magnificent level tonight, bearing in mind we’ve got what constitutes most of a first team group out there.
“You’re going to see teams go out tonight to amateur groups, and you see it all around the world. I’ve seen it many times in England in the FA Cup where lower-league teams beat the bigger fish not because they’re necessarily more talented, but they’ve got bigger hearts on the day and their attitude has dragged them through. Maybe the talented players don’t quite get themselves up for the game, and tonight our players have gotten themselves up for the game.”
The Boys in Gold got the scoring started early, with Ropapa Mensah running onto a throughball from fellow winger Alan Winn, and finishing confidently past Tormenta keeper Tor Saunders. After just eight minutes of gameplay, Nashville found itself on top. Winn would be on the receiving end for Nashville’s second goal, running free on goal after service between the lines from midfielder Bolu Akinyode. His shot curled side-netting to give the hosts a 2-0 lead.
The professional side with a multi-goal lead in the first half may seem like a guarantee, but Tormenta was able to respond shortly before halftime. A failed clearance and a scramble at the back found winger Adrian Billhardt alone on goal against Nashville keeper Connor Sparrow. He was able to poke the ball past Sparrow and slot it home to cut the halftime lead to just one goal.
Nashville responded after the half with striker Cameron Lancaster managing to roll the ball over the line after rounding the keeper on service from Winn – his second assist of the night, and third goal in which he was involved.
Once again, though, the amateur side wouldn’t go down without a fight. Striker James Meehan was waiting in the center of the six-yard box on a corner kick, and Jordan Skelton’s header to him took one hop before Meehan nodded it home, as well.
Tormenta would create more moments of danger – including a corner kick opportunity that saw a ball sail just over the bar seconds before full-time – but was unable to find that moment of Open Cup magic to slay the giants and move on to the third round. Nonetheless, after taking down League One team Chattanooga Red Wolves SC last weekend, there’s no shame in the performance for the amateurs.
“Always pleased to advance in the Cup,” Smith said. “It’s completely different to league play. You’ve got to get yourself in the winning column and you advance. I thought the application was terrific, attitude from the outset was spot-on, and in these games that are always difficult against a young and fearless side that have come here and given everything they’ve got and have nothing to lose, I thought our guys maybe just missed out on extending the lead at good times. The only disappointment for me will be a bit of a freak goal in the first one and then conceding from the set piece.”
With the victory, Nashville SC advances to take on the winner of Wednesday’s battle between the Charleston Battery and the Greenville Triumph SC. Nashville managed to slay a giant of its own last year – Colorado Rapids of MLS – and advance to the Round of 16 before falling to rival Louisville City FC. With a solid first salvo in the books, they’ll be looking to eclipse that run in 2019.