A 93rd-minute own goal from Akeem Ward gave Nashville SC a dramatic 1-0 victory over playoff hopeful Birmingham Legion FC on Tuesday night at First Tennessee Park, moving the hosts into third place in the Eastern Conference standings and within two points of the top spot. Meanwhile in the Western Conference, Real Monarchs SLC defeated the nine-men Tacoma Defiance at Cheney Stadium to move up to fifth place and level on points with fourth-place Sacramento Republic FC.
TACOMA, Wash. – The Monarchs earned their second straight win against the nine-men Defiance at Cheney Stadium. The visitors were inches away from taking the lead six minutes into the contest when Jack Blake connected sweetly with a poor Tacoma clearance and struck the crossbar with his first-time effort from just outside the penalty area. Real did go on to take the lead just after the half-hour mark when Luis Arriaga’s initial effort from the center of the box was stopped by Defiance goalkeeper Bryan Meredith but Kyle Coffee was on hand to fire home the rebound from about 12 yards out. Tacoma nearly found its equalizer in the 39th minute when the Monarchs failed to clear a corner kick and Alex Roldan forced a strong low save out of Real goalkeeper David Ochoa and Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez blasted the rebound off the post with the goal waning. Tacoma was reduced to ten men just before halftime when Jesús Rubio was shown a pair of yellow cards in quick succession for two rash challenges in the same sequence of play. The Monarchs made the most of the man-advantage after halftime and doubled the lead in the 55th minute through Maikel Chang, who swept home a low right-footed shot after Meredith’s punch of a corner kick landed right at his feet. Ocampo-Chavez cut the Defiance’s deficit in half five minutes later, expertly looping a left-wing cross from Nicholas Hinds over Ochoa and into the top-right corner. However, Tacoma’s chances at a comeback took a hit in the 64th minute when Danny Leyva was sent off for a second yellow card and the Monarchs restored their two-goal advantage from the penalty spot nine minutes later with Chang grabbing his second of the game after being brought down in the box by Hinds. Cristian Calix added a fourth with a stunning strike into the top-left corner from 22 yards out for his first professional goal with two minutes remaining to put an exclamation point on an important victory for the Monarchs’ top-four hopes.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Maikel Chang, Real Monarchs SLC – Chang scored a pair of goals on two shots, had five chances created and completed 77 percent of his passes to help the Monarchs earn their second straight victory.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A late own goal gave Nashville a narrow victory over Legion FC at First Tennessee Park. The hosts created the best chance of the first half in the 21st minute when Alan Winn cut in from the left wing and fired a low right-footed shot on target that forced a save out of Birmingham goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel. The visitors came close to taking the lead just before the break when Eric Avila’s left-wing delivery reached Kyle Culbertson at the back post, but NSC goalkeeper Matt Pickens was able to keep out the defender’s header from a tight angle. The second half didn’t produce a lot of clear-cut chances until the final ten minutes when both teams struck the woodwork in pursuit of a winner. Legion FC forward J.J. Williams created a yard of space and rifled a right-footed shot off the crossbar with eight minutes remaining. Nashville had the same slice of bad luck on the other end as Matt LaGrassa’s deflected effort looped towards the bottom-right corner but bounced back into play off the post in the 90th minute. However, the home side earned one last corner kick in the third minute of stoppage time and Jimmy Ockford rose up at the back post to meet Justin Davis’ delivery and the ball found its way into the back of the net with the decisive touch coming from Birmingham defender Akeem Ward to give the hosts a dramatic three points.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Justin Davis, Nashville SC – Davis delivered the corner kick that resulted in the game-winning own goal, won 5 of 10 duels and 4 of 4 tackles while also making seven recoveries in Nashville’s 1-0 win.