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RECAP: Red Bulls clinch playoff spot, draw with Nashville SC, 1-1

Photo courtesy of Kassel Leventhal

NASHVILLE, TN - Fabio and Hany Mukhtar traded goals for their teams as the New York Red Bulls and Nashville SC battled to a draw on Sunday night. New York clinched their 12th consecutive postseason appearance with the draw, which is the longest streak of any New York metro area sports team and is the second-longest active streak in Major League Soccer.

The Red Bulls got on the scoreboard just thirty-five seconds into the match as Cristian Casseres brought the ball down the sideline and found Fabio in the middle of the box. Then, he brought the ball down with one motion and slotted it past Joe Willis to give the visitors the early lead, stunning the home supporters into relative silence.

All season long, Nashville has been a constant threat during set-pieces. They almost equalized in the 16th minute when defender Walker Zimmerman got a free header in the box as he slipped by Sean Davis, but the ball whistled high and over the net, to the visitors' relief, who felt they dodged a bullet in that situation.

But the Red Bulls wouldn't dodge the bullet for much longer, as Nashville struck back in the 37th minute. On a free-kick, striker Hany Mukhtar blasted the ball toward the net, where Fábio tried in vain to block it but wound up inadvertently headed the ball into the net instead, equalizing the match at one apiece. 

New York responded and nearly went ahead in the 44th minute. Midfielder Dru Yearwood spun his way around the Nashville defense and got the ball over to Casseres. However, his shot was literally snatched from the air by Joe Willis, making a tremendous save from point-blank range to keep the match even as the first half came to a close. 

Nashville SC showed flashes of dangerous chances in the second half, and in the 63rd minute, they nearly did just that as C.J. Sapong took the ball and darted through the New York defense and got the ball over to Mukhtar, who headed the ball wide to his right, just inches away from the far post.

The home side wasn't quite done, sensing that the New York defense was softening up at the wrong time. Kyle Duncan failed to clear the ball from the back, only to have it bounced right to Alistair Johnson, who then passed to Mukhtar. But his shot was saved by goalkeeper Carlos Coronel, who did his part to keep the match leveled at one. 

New York almost when ahead in the 88th minute when Cristian Casseres' pass found the feet of Omir Fernandez, who sent a dangerous shot that rang off the post. One minute later, Nashville responded with a chance from Ake Arnaud Loba to take a pass headed from Jhonder Cadiz. Still, Carlos Coronel immediately stopped the shot in time, perhaps making the save of the season.

Nashville had one last attempt to take the lead late in stoppage time. Still, Hany Mukhtar's free-kick was this time smartly defended by New York as the final whistle was blown, preserving the draw that the Red Bulls needed to punch their ticket to the playoffs for the 12th consecutive time in franchise history.

For Gerhard Struber and his team, the accomplishment was worth the on-field celebration. Given that the league's experts and pundits gave them nearly no chance to make the playoffs, this was something that the team could savor until they meet up with the Philadelphia Union in two weeks. 

Starting XI:

Nashville SC: Joe Willis, Daniel Lovitz (Dax McCarty, 71’), Jack Maher, Walker Zimmerman, Alistair Johnston, Eric Miller, Hany Mukhtar, Alex Muyl (Ake Loba, 72’), Anibal Godoy, Randall Leal, CJ Sapong (Jhonder Cadiz, 72’)

New York Red Bulls: Carlos Coronel, John Tolkin (Kyle Duncan, 55’), Andrew Gutman, Sean Nealis, Andrés Reyes, Tom Edwards, Sean Davis, Dru Yearwood (Youba Diarra, 83’), Cristian Cásseres, Jr., Caden Clark (Omir Fernandez, 75’), Fábio (Tom Barlow, 83’)

Scoring Summary:
1' (New York Red Bulls) Fábio assisted by Cristian Cásseres and Caden Clark
37' (Nashville SC) Hany Mukhtar, unassisted

Disciplinary Summary:
14' (New York Red Bulls) Sean Davis - Yellow card
75' (Nashville SC) Anibal Godoy - Yellow card
86' (New York Red Bulls) Youba Diarra - Yellow card


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