When we last saw these two teams together, they were walking off of a rainy FNB Field in April after a mostly mundane 0-0 draw. This felt like a strong result for Penn FC as they were coming off another tough 1-1 draw with Charleston, but the Nashville faithful were disappointed. So they went out and acquired a few new toys between now and then, and they made sure to put them to use Saturday night. This would lead to disastrous results for the boys in blue.
Both sides spent a lot of time in the midfield during the early part of Saturday’s match, with each team’s best chances usually fizzling out before they became too dangerous. Nashville was able to control possession for extended periods before working a ball wide and then sending a cross for the far post. They managed to deliver an open package into the box at least twice, but no Nashville players were around to sign for it.
Penn FC absorbed the Nashville pressure but they didn’t try to spring many fast counters when they gained possession. Instead they would slow down the pace to try and gain control while experimenting with a few more long passes than usual. This nearly paid off in the 26th minute when Richard Menjivar was able to put a side volley shot on frame, but Nashville goalkeeper Matt Pickens was more than up to the task of making the save.
It looked like they were heading to another scoreless half of soccer until the Nashville gameplan finally paid off in the 36th minute. This time it was Ish Jome who worked his way down the left side before sending in a cross. Newly acquired striker Brandon Allen was there to slam it home and put Nashville up 1-0. This was only the second time that Penn FC had conceded a first half goal this season.
Penn FC came back from the half looking to push hard and equalize quickly. It nearly paid off in the 47th minute as Aaron Dennis sent a through ball into the box that put Marco Franco one on one with Pickens. But Pickens had positioned himself perfectly and he blocked Franco’s shot out of play.
Instead of an equalizer, Penn FC found themselves in a deeper hole in the 48th minute off of a beautiful shot by Lebo Moloto. Nashville pushed quickly downfield off of the Penn FC corner and Allen slipped a ball back to Moloto outside the top of the box. Moloto went with a side footed shot that curled down just enough to kiss the bottom of the crossbar and go into the back of the net.
Penn FC didn’t hang their heads as they looked for their first goal to chip away at the deficit. They brought in several subs to try and spark the offense including Dan Metzger at halftime followed by Calvin Rezende for Aaron Dennis and Jerry Ortiz for Freddie Opoku. They were able to make more shots, but most weren’t troubling the keeper. Nashville still felt in control and they even got a few more shots of their own.
The game changed around the 75th minute when the offensive pressure finally got to Pickens. First he made a critical error on a Rezende shot in the 75th minute. He initially saved the low ball, but he allowed it to squirt between his arms and out for a corner. Pickens rebounded quickly and on the ensuing corner he made an amazing reaction save to deny a header from Ken Tribbett. Expect to see it on the USL save-of-the-week nominations. But he wasn’t so lucky on the next Penn FC corner. This time, Ortiz was able to curl the ball right to Tribbett who headed it home to bring the scoreline to 2-1.
Nashville didn’t take kindly to this turn of events, and they immediately moved to ensure their lead. For starters, they brought on former City Islander Ropapa Mensah in the 79th minute to provide fresh legs at striker. They then resumed the quick attacking play that they had gotten away from for most of the second half. This paid off quickly as Ropapa Mensah nearly scored in the 81st minute only to see Romu Peiser make a spectacular save for Penn FC. But unfortunately for Peiser, the ball stayed loose in the box. The defenders struggled to clear, and the ball then dropped at the feet of Alan Winn who was able to tap it in from maybe two feet out.
With less than ten minutes to play, Penn FC kept pushing for another offensive opportunity, but they couldn’t break though the Nashville defense again. They had struggled with offsides calls all night, and the Nashville center backs were heading away any long passes that Penn FC sent forward. Nashville also had Mensah and Winn that they could use for quick counters, so Penn FC’s defenders were forced to backpedal quickly several times. Winn should have had another goal on the final play of the game, but he tapped his open shot wide instead.
With the 3-1 win, Nashville remains unbeaten at home as the head into an extended home stretch. Penn FC will be looking to get a little home magic of their own as they return to City Island for their next match against Toronto FC II on Saturday, June 9th.
- Tribbett’s header was his second goal of the season, which means he’s currently in second place for most goals scored for Penn FC behind Tommy Heinemann with three. Jerry Ortiz earned his second assist on the goal, so he now leads the team in that statistic.
- Penn FC has only scored seven goals so far this season, but so far four of them have come off of headers. That didn’t happen as much last season when the players for the Harrisburg City Islanders were much shorter on average.