Rival or Not, it was Chippy
This game consumed the day for Nashville & Cincinnati fans a like. At that end of the day, it didn't matter if you thought this was a rivalry or not; it was personal.
This game felt personal to the players too. From the moment the whistle blew the players seemed like they were at each other's throats. Whether it was due to some outside factor or a dislike for each other; it felt like this was a must win for both teams.
The first half felt like Nashville owned the game. Both in tempo and morale. Nashville had Cincinnati on their heels and the supporters section was louder than ever. A few missed opportunities stung but we kept pushing, and those missed opportunities didn't really hurt until 3 minutes into the second half.
No one can argue that Joe Willis had an amazing game, and we'll get into the stats later. But I wouldn't even put that goal on him. He had an amazing save knocking away a powerful shot from Barreal but our backline wasn't there to clear it and Vazquez had an easy tap in. That's all it was, some bad luck and players not being in their place.
After that Nashville seemed desperate and attempted poor quality chance shots and inaccurate long balls. They were frustrated.
Of course this frustration comes a lot from the officiating. There were a few bad calls in favor on Nashville in the first half; but the second half seemed wildly inconsistent and Pekmic (head ref) seemed lost. This is a reoccurring issue in not only Nashville SC games but most MLS games. (Look at the missed call in NYRB when a Charlotte defender took out a NYRB player's knee and there was no call). So I'm not at all saying this is why NSC lost; we had calls our way. This is where the frustration for multiple players (and fans) came from.
At no point did I feel we were going to equalize. Our chances never looked good and we don't have an actual striker (we'll get more into this later). And we didn't equalize; even with 8 (deserved) minutes of stoppage time; Cincinnati stopped our attack, wasted time, and used the ref to halt any success at getting shots off. Even if they didn't; would it have done much good?
Nashville had 15 shots in the first half with 3 on target. Cincinnati had 3 shots in the first half with 1 on target. In the second half Nashville had a grand total of 2 shots with neither being on target while Cincinnati had 12 shots with 4 being on target. I've seen the blame on Hany, Shaffleburg, McCarty, CJ and Teal, and of course our coach, Gary Smith.
Here's a fun fact; we've had 1 goal that was scored by a striker in our last 25 goals. That's one goal by Teal Bunbury since August 6th. Out of our 52 goals in 2022, Teal & CJ combined for 10 of those (Zubak had 0 in MLS play; only scored in Open Cup). This has been an issue that fans and media has addressed but doesn't seem close to being resolved.
Joe Willis made this game a lot closer. With 6 saves and 11 recoveries for the night, he kept the score a lot nicer in our favor. He was not only our Player of the Match, but he was ranked Player of the Game by Fotmob. I've never seen a goalie ranked as Player of the Match when their team loses and that speaks volumes of his efforts.
With a team that is known for "Gary Ball" or "parking the bus"; on paper it looks like we were the most aggressive. Having 61% of possession, most shots, most passes and most accurate percentage of passes, most shots INSIDE the box, and most duels won. Only getting beat in Xg, tackles, and interceptions. This isn't a team that came to draw but put it all out there to win; just couldn't find the net, and when you don't have a true striker, it will probably be the story most games.
(Stats from FotMob and MLS)