(Photo credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)
Golden Boot leader Hany Mukhtar scored a crucial goal in the 66th minute to give Nashville a two-goal lead in a 3-0 road victory over Sporting Kansas City.
Nashville (12-9-7, 43 points) won for the first time in seven matches to solidify its playoff position in the Eastern Conference. Nashville was 0-4-2 in its previous six matches, scoring just two goals over those six matches.
Sporting KC (9-13-8, 35 points) was already in a perilous position, a point below the playoff in the Western Conference coming in.
Neither team mounted much of an offensive threat in a cleanly and evenly played first half. Each team had five fouls in the first half, and each side had just one shot on goal.
Sporting controlled most of the possession in the first half, and much of that was in the Nashville end. But they couldn't penetrate the Nashville defense, which came into the match tied for the fewest goals allowed (27) in MLS.
Nashville got on the board in the 29th minute. Fafa Picault, who came from almost outside the box on a corner kick by Daniel Lovitz, rose above the defense and headed it perfectly past Melia.
Nursing a 1-0 halftime lead, Nashville packed it in on defense even more than in the first half. Sporting spent much of the early part of the second half deep in Nashville territory, while Nashville waited on the occasional counter to penetrate the SKC end.
Following a corner kick by Nashville, Sporting cleared the ball into safety. Nashville midfielder Alex Muyl fed the ball back to his keeper, Joe Willis, near the midfield stripe. He sent it deep into SKC territory, where Walker Zimmerman gathered it to the right of the box. He sent it toward the goal. Sporting's Andreu Fontas deflected it, but Mukhtar fired it past SKC goalkeeper Tim Melia.
After Mukhtar was fouled in the 76th minute, he sent a low-line drive into the box that was redirected by Jack Maher for the final goal of the day.
--Field Level Media