MLS: After ending winless rut, Nashville SC get Whitecaps next

Nashville SC are hopeful that a rough stretch has concluded as they enter Saturday night’s pivotal road match against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Nashville was in the midst of a six-match winless streak (0-3-3) and had just one victory in a nine-game stretch (1-4-4) before routing visiting FC Dallas 4-0 last Saturday.

All-Star midfielder Hany Mukhtar scored two goals to raise his tally to 16, second in the league behind Sebastian Driussi of Austin FC.

Nashville (9-9-9, 36 points) is in sixth place in the Western Conference. The Whitecaps (9-11-7, 34 points) and Los Angeles Galaxy are both two points behind.

“It’s been, for sure, our flattest period since we’ve been in MLS,” Nashville coach Gary Smith said of the third-year franchise’s recent struggles. “And the big, big confidence boost, not only to win, but in the manner that we won at a very important juncture in the season, the big hope is that it gives everyone a shot in the arm.”

Vancouver is in a 2-1-2 stretch that began with a 1-1 tie at Nashville on July 30 in the first-ever meeting between the teams.

Teal Bunbury scored in the 17th minute for Nashville, and Javain Brown tied it in the 87th minute for the Whitecaps.

Thomas Hasal will be in goal for the third straight game for Vancouver. He sustained a dislocated finger on May 8 vs. Toronto FC and he returned to play well in the past two matches — a 2-1 home win over the Colorado Rapids and a 1-1 tie at Real Salt Lake.

“He passed the test and earned the spot for this week,” Whitecaps coach Vanni Sartini said.

Sartini said the goalie decision between Hasal and Cody Cropper will be made week to week.

Hasal is focusing on Nashville as he knows the stakes are high.

“We know it’s a big game,” Hasal told reporters. “We know the league table. We know every game right now is a final. Every game can be the one that decides our season.”

Forward Lucas Cavallini leads the Whitecaps with eight goals. Midfielder Ryan Gauld is also having a stellar campaign with six goals and a team-high seven assists.

–Field Level Media

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