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Nashville SC Earns Strong Road Win in Charlotte to Set up Top-Three Battle on Wednesday

August 19, 2019 - United Soccer League Championship (USL) - Nashville SC News Release

MATTHEWS, N.C. - Riding a five-match unbeaten streak against a team on the outside looking in on the USL Championship Playoffs, Nashville SC came to North Carolina with a chip on its collective shoulder.

Two narrow road defeats at the hands of the Charlotte Independence last season made Saturday night's decisive 3-1 win that much more satisfying for Head Coach Gary Smith.

"I have to be honest, I thought the first half play, certainly in terms of creation, was as much as we could ask for on the road," Smith said. "I certainly felt as though we should have been in a better position than we were at halftime. There were one or two moments, more so the details, accuracy of passing, a little bit more of a clinical edge in front of goal. To be perfectly honest, their very first effort on goal goes right into the bottom corner. I was pretty disappointed at halftime. I felt as though our display was a pretty decent one. There were a couple of things that we spoke about at halftime, most importantly was being more aggressive out wide again. The amazing thing was both of the goals that gave us the victory came from the two wide players. So, very pleased. This was a difficult place for us last year, and we had a couple of very dejected journeys to this stadium, so I'm very pleased that we've been able to really exorcise that ghost, if you like."

Daniel Ríos got the scoring started with a finish off of a brilliant set piece play, but Charlotte was able to equalize before halftime to break NSC's clean sheet streak of more than five matches. In the second half, a Ríos penalty coupled with a brilliant lower-corner strike by Kharlton Belmar put Nashville over the top.

Belmar, who had a number of chances throughout the night, was thrilled with the team's creativity on the night.

"We came out with a mentality today that we wanted to create a lot of chances, and we wanted to continue the fun that we've been [having] scoring goals and keeping other teams from getting opportunities," Belmar said. "That's what we came out to do, so right from the get-go we wanted to get the ball in behind and see what we could make happen, and I think that was what led to me getting that early chance and then us getting on the scoresheet in the seventh minute. We really wanted to set out and put the pressure on them early and it paid off. It's tough to defend that long when a team's applying pressure, so we did what we wanted to do."

With the win, Nashville SC stays in third place in the Eastern Conference and sits just two points out of first place. This Wednesday night, the Boys in Gold will clash with first-place New York Red Bulls II in a rescheduled match from June. Depending on Tampa Bay Rowdies' result that night, Nashville could move into first place with a victory.

Smith knows his team will be up for the challenge after such a strong performance at the weekend.

"The usual buildup to the game applies," Smith said. "If I make this out to be any more than it needs to be, the guys are fully aware. These are the easy games. The games today are the tough ones because you've got next to nobody in the ground, you've got a Charlotte side that are really not playing for a lot, but they are capable. And to win here 3-1 is a true reflection of attitude and character. Wednesday night, the guys will realize. They'll go home tonight and look at the table. They understand that a victory on Wednesday puts us possibly to the top of the table and really throws a cat amongst the pigeons towards winning a championship. One victory on Wednesday opens up a completely different runway towards the end of the season."

According to defender Taylor Washington, who had an assist on Ríos' first goal, that mentality of the team is already strong going into such a pivotal match.

"I think we all know what's at stake," Washington said. "Bolu [Akinyode] said it best. We walked in and we were celebrating the win and he's like, 'As soon as we're done celebrating, we focus on the game Wednesday.' Red Bulls II is a team that's always tough to beat and tough to play, but we're in great form. We've just got to keep improving and do what we need to do in training and implementing it in the games, and Wednesday should go our way."

Tickets for Wednesday night's match against NYRBII, presented by Budweiser, are available now for as low as $5.

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