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D.C. United undone by Nashville SC in 5-2 road loss

CJ Sapong and Alex Muyl both had braces as United’s unbeaten run came to a shuddering halt

MLS: D.C. United at Nashville SC Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

D.C. United saw a promising start dissolve, as Nashville SC handed them a 5-2 loss in Tennessee. CJ Sapong and Alex Muyl both scored twice for the home side, while United — despite Ola Kamara making it six straight games with a goal — saw an early lead slip away, snapping a five-game unbeaten run.

United made two changes to the team that beat CF Montreal last weekend: Steven Birnbaum replaced Andy Najar, who was not in uniform reportedly to keep him fresh for Wednesday’s trip to New England, while Yordy Reyna came in for Joseph Mora. United also had welcome news on the bench, as Designated Player Edison Flores was available for the first time in 11 matches, and was joined by new addition Ramón Ábila.

United went on the attack immediately, and got out to a 3rd minute lead. After two crosses from the endline inside the first minute, Kevin Paredes had a shot from 22 yards tipped wide by Joe Willis. From the resulting corner, Julian Gressel’s delivery picked out an unmarked run from Frédéric Brillant. United’s captain made no mistake, nodding down past Willis for his first goal of the season.

Brillant then made two different crucial blocks within a minute as Nashville pushed to equalize, denying Alistair Johnston in the 7th minute on what looked like a sure goal, and then coming up with another to stop Hany Mukhtar after a goalmouth scramble on a corner just seconds later.

Nashville didn’t settle for those looks, and their pressure saw them get level in the 15th minute. Randall Leal’s cross from the left saw CJ Sapong — a familiar thorn in D.C.’s side — drift away from Brillant and Steven Birnbaum before heading past Jon Kempin from ten yards.

Sapong struck again in the 31st minute, putting Nashville up 2-1. Mukhtar mimicked a run Leal had made earlier, this time to the left, and got into a seam near the endline. From there, he floated a cross to the back post, where Sapong escaped Tony Alfaro to head past Kempin from seven yards.

Nashville continued their sharp breaks from midfield, and added to their lead in the 37th minute. This time, Mukhtar called his own number after getting isolated against Gressel, freezing him with a stepover before cutting inside to shoot. Mukhtar’s shot was nearly blocked, but caught a deflection off of Birnbaum’s heel, looping over Kempin and clipping the bar before bouncing down and over the line.

United needed something before halftime, and they got it in the 41st minute. Moses Nyeman won the ball at midfield before finding Arriola, who spotted a run from deep from Ola Kamara. Arriola’s ball over the top was perfect, and Kamara just had to guide it past Willis to notch his 11th goal of the year.

Nashville came out in the second half and continued to find the spaces between the outside center backs and wingbacks, with Dan Lovitz volleying wide after Sapong crossed from the right. United responded with another clever set piece routine that saw Gressel take a short corner, and then end up the target once the ball was served in, but the German’s finish was just inches over the crossbar.

Hernán Losada made a triple sub to bring Flores and Ábila in and shift to a 442, but United’s comeback attempt was undone by Nashville substitutes. Brian Anunga started the move before finding Mukhtar, who set up Alex Muyl. Muyl spun and had a go from a promising spot, but ultimately his shot got in despite Kempin seeming to get plenty of contact on it in the 80th minute.

A tough night at the back got worse in the 86th minute, as Muyl beat Brillant to a pass in the box. United’s captain clipped Muyl, with referee Drew Fischer pointing to the spot. Muyl gave himself a brace, converting the penalty to make it 5-2.

The loss sees United (8W-3D-8L, 27 points) remain in 6th place. They won’t have much to dwell on this one, as they face a daunting road trip to face the league-leading New England Revolution this Wednesday, August 18, with kickoff set for 7:00pm.

Box Score

MLS Regular Season - Game 19
Nashville SC 5 (Sapong 15, 31; Mukhtar 37; Muyl 80, 87pen)
D.C. United 2 (Brillant 3, Kamara 41)

Nashville (352): Joe Willis; Jack Maher, Jalil Anibaba (Walker Zimmerman 60), Dave Romney; Alistair Johnston, Randall Leal (Alex Muyl 77), Dax McCarty (C) (Brian Anunga 77), Aníbal Godoy, Dan Lovitz; Hany Mukhtar (Daniel Ríos 84), CJ Sapong (Aké Loba 84)

DCU (343): Jon Kempin; Steven Birnbaum (Joseph Mora 73), Frédéric Brillant (C), Tony Alfaro; Julian Gressel, Moses Nyeman (Drew Skundrich 46), Junior Moreno, Kevin Paredes (Ramón Ábila 73); Paul Arriola, Ola Kamara, Yordy Reyna (Edison Flores 73)

Nashville - None
DCU - None