NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Oct. 6, 2020) — Heading to Nashville for the first time to face one of this season’s two expansion teams, Minnesota United had to deal with short rest from their game against FC Cincinnati on Saturday. The result was a starting XI featuring some returning faces and regular faces in new positions. With mainstay Jan Gregus departing for games with the Slovakia national team, the Loons had to adjust as the next man stepped up. While they couldn’t make the most of their offensive chances, the visitors did well to stymie Nashville’s efforts, earning them a point on the road in a 0-0 draw.

The game began brightly, with both teams looking to pounce on the opportunities presented to them. For Nashville, this meant leaning into long through balls and diagonal passes over the midfield to find wingers in the hopes of diming crosses onto late-arriving attackers. For Minnesota, it meant attempts to work through midfielder Emanuel Reynoso at the edge of the penalty box.

Nashville SC had the best early opportunity in the fifth minute when Derrick Jones — a midfielder working as a forward for the home side due to injury issues — wasted an excellent opportunity in front of goal on a low cross from the right wing. Jones’ shot went wide right thanks to pressure from Aja but between that and a long shot from midfielder Brian Anunga three minutes that was wide left, the Boys in Gold had the better looks early.

Midfielder Ethan Finlay did well in his return from injury and first start August 29, putting his trademark vigor and work ethic to the test with lung-busting runs down the left wing. Defender Bakaye Dibassy slid over to left back to give Chase Gasper a break and accounted himself well in a position he frequently played during his time with Amiens in France. Early on, he sometimes got caught too far upfield but by the second half, he and Boxall were working well together both to provide defense and allow Dibassy to get up and launch dangerous crosses.

Dayne St. Clair had another standout performance in a clean sheet effort, doing well to stop an effort by Alex Muyl in the 26th minute and then shortly after in the 29th minute when Randall Leal unleashed a blistering shot from distance that forced the young keeper to stretch all the way out to his left to push it over the touchline.

Through the first half-hour, Nashville dominated possession to the tune of 65.8% — a trend that would hold up over the length of the game with the home side ending up with 55.9% by the final whistle.

Over the final five minutes of the first half, Minnesota United began to ramp up their attack, clearly hoping for an opportunity to go into halftime up a goal. In the 45th minute, a savvy Emanuel Reynoso cut in deep in Nashville’s half and stole a throw-in, finding himself near the endline with possession before sending in a cross that couldn’t find a target. The first half ended with Finlay sending in his own cross from the right wing, finding Dibassy who unleashed a hard flat shot that went high. The teams headed into the tunnel deadlocked at 0-0.

In the second half, the visitors showed more desire to disrupt the home side, leading to more possession for Minnesota and more opportunities for counterattack for the home side. Minnesota racked up the opportunities with crosses and off of set pieces but found it difficult to get that final ball to make the difference. In the 65th minute, the Loons got their best opportunity of the night up to that point when a short breakaway led to getting a decent look for a hard-charging Finlay, who attempted a chip shot over Willis. Nashville’s keeper, though, read the play well and stopped the chip before it could get very far off the ground.

In the 71st minute, forward Aaron Schoenfeld made way for Kei Kamara and then two minutes later, NSC got their best look of the game up to that point when substitute Alan Winn stayed onside on an outlet pass while the MNUFC backline looked for a call. Winn, though, whiffed on the shot and hit the ground, luckily for the visitors.

Down the stretch, Minnesota couldn’t make anything of the game despite a strong attack that generated opportunities. On the other side of the ball, the backline and the midfield — missing both Osvaldo Alonso and Jan Gregus — did well to limit Nashville and St. Clair cleaned up anything they couldn’t handle. The teams ultimately split the points in a scoreless draw.

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KDUZ/KARP/KGLB Sports Director, Play by Play Announcer, On Air Personality, and Community Calendar editor

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