FC Dallas went on the road to Nashville on Sunday but could not come away with a victory, falling 4-0 in the largest differential of the season.
Nashville’s defense stymied the Dallas attack and held the team to only four shots throughout the day, the lowest number of shots taken this season. Dallas failed to record a shot on goal in the game for the first time since May.
“First of all, Nashville was the best team out there tonight,” said head coach Nico Estevez following the loss. “When a team is better than you, you are not able to say anything else. This is the least amount of intensity you will see from us as we are in pursuit of achieving our goal this season.
“We are coming off a few weeks where we have had two to three matches in a week. Mid-game weeks and weekend games can tire our players mentally and psychically. We felt like most of our starters recovered well … which is why we went with them.
“Plus, we knew the importance of tonight’s match as well. We were not ready mentally, and we were not fully psychically (sic) ready to compete with Nashville after their performance tonight.”
The biggest spoiler for FC Dallas in the game was Hani Muhktar, the star Nashville forward who is directly competing with Jesus Ferreira for the Golden Boot by Audi award given to the Major League Soccer player who scores the most goals in a season.
Entering the match, Ferreira held second overall by one goal at 15 on the season, but two scores by Muhktar on Saturday moved Ferreira into third place overall behind Sebastian Driussi at number one and Muhktar at number two.
The first goal by Muhktar came only five minutes into the match. Collecting a crossing pass in the middle, FC Dallas defender Jose Martinez forced Muhktar outside and near the end line before the forward took a shot from an unlikely angle that somehow beat goalkeeper Maarten Paes into the top of the net.
At the 26-minute mark, Muhktar earned an assist when FC Dallas defender Matt Hedges nearly forced a turnover, but the ball bounced Nashville’s way.
Jacob Shaffelburg, making his debut after being loaned to Nashville from Toronto and the Canadian National Team, fired a rocket that Paes could not deflect at the bottom corner to put the home team up 2-0.
Muhktar struck gold again at the 33-minute point on a free penalty kick that cleared the defending line and dropped just below the crossbar to give Nashville a 3-0 lead in the first half.
“It was a rough night for us,” said FC Dallas defender Ema Twumasi. “It’s hard to pinpoint what went wrong tonight. They had more energy than we did, and they knocked us out right when the game started. I feel like we could’ve bounced back, but we didn’t, and they got another goal and put the game to bed. We had three games this week; we got six points.
“The main goal was to get nine points this week. Unfortunately, we came up short. We have to regroup and focus on the next one. We’ve got a big game coming on Saturday, so we’ve got to shift our attention to the one on Saturday.”
After playing six games in 20 days, FC Dallas now gets a week-long break before facing Real Salt Lake for the second time this season on Saturday. Dallas defeated Salt Lake on the road on July 23 and will now look for a repeat at home.