Nashville SC gets its swag back as Hany Mukhtar sparks 3-1 win over D.C. United

·3 min read

After a gut-check loss six days prior, Nashville SC got its swag back in the nation's capital on Saturday.

Ultimate playmaker Hany Mukhtar scored his seventh and eight goals of the season as Nashville thumped D.C. United 3-1 at Audi Field. Left wingback Dan Lovitz ignited the rout in the sixth minute by scoring his first goal since November 2020.

Nashville (7-5-5, 26 points) jumped out to a 3-0 lead within the first 50 minutes before United's Taxi Fountas scored a consolation goal in the 59th minute.

Mukhtar scored a double for the third time this season, which ranks second-most in MLS.

Here are a few observations from Nashville's win over D.C.

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Nashville midfield ran the show

Nashville's midfield had its way in the District.

Dax McCarty and Sean Davis anchored that part of the field. But the key ingredient was attacking midfielder Randall Leal, who made his first start (ankle) since May 8.

When center forward CJ Sapong dispossessed United's Fountas in the 45th minute, Leal quickly collected the loose ball and accelerated toward goal. United's midfield had pushed so high up the field, Leal, McCarty and Mukhtar ignited a 3-on-3 against United's retreating center backs.

Leal played a through ball to McCarty. The captain had a clear path to scoring, but instead he tapped the ball across goal to Mukhtar for the finish.

Saturday was a night-and-day comparison to Nashville's loss on Juneteenth to Sporting Kansas City. On that evening, Nashville fielded three genuine midfielders: Davis, Anibal Godoy and Brian Anunga.

SKC's trio of Felipe Hernandez, Cam Duke and Remi Walters won that battle, collectively adding a goal, an assist and 36 passes into the final third.

"We knew that performance against Kansas City was unacceptable," Davis said. "We have an experienced player like Dax, but on top of that, we have Randall.

"He was so good at finding pockets on the right side and disorienting (the United) midfield. It's hard for them to pick up the right spaces against us. I think we were able to manipulate them in a good way.".

Jun 25, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA;  Nashville SC forward C.J. Sapong (17) protects the ball from a D.C. United defender Steve Birnbaum (15) in the first half at Audi Field.
Jun 25, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Nashville SC forward C.J. Sapong (17) protects the ball from a D.C. United defender Steve Birnbaum (15) in the first half at Audi Field.

Perfect bounce-back form

Since expanding into MLS in 2020, Nashville has won or tied in all but three contests following a loss and have a plus-15 goal differential in those 16 matches, excluding playoff defeats.

U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal ahead

Nashville will have three days rest before travelling to face Orlando City SC (6 p.m., ESPN+) in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal. The winner will host the New York Red Bulls.

The tournament is Nashville's chance to win its first trophy in club history.

"All of us have felt very strongly about our group and what that (tournament) means to us," Lovitz said. "We're chomping at the bit. We've been to Orlando before, and it's gonna be a tough game against an opponent we know very well."

For stories about Nashville SC or Soccer in Tennessee, contact Drake Hills at DHills@gannett.com. Follow Drake on Twitter at @LiveLifeDrake. Connect with Drake on Instagram at @drakehillssoccer and on Facebook.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Nashville SC beats D.C. United 3-1 on Saturday at Audi Field