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RSL outmatched in 2-0 loss to Nashville


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SANDY — Real Salt Lake's clean-sheet streak lasted more than two-and-a-half matches before succumbing to a relentless Nashville SC attack in a 2-0 road loss at GEODIS Park Sunday.

"We knew it was gonna be a difficult game," head coach Pablo Mastroeni said. "We took on a lot of pressure early and grew into it a bit. We just didn't create enough in front of goal. Great effort from the group and something we definitely need to build on."

Nashville dominated the opening half, owning the majority of possession and practically living in the attacking third of the field. The biggest opportunity early came in the 21st minute following a yellow card just outside the RSL box from Everton Luiz. The free kick went straight to Zac MacMath, but the RSL keeper was forced to stay on his toes with pair of crucial saves in the following minutes as Nashville maintained attacking pressure.

RSL picked up eight fouls in the opening half hour to just two for Nashville, resulting in several set piece opportunities for the home team to go ahead. Nashville put up seven shots in the first 30 minutes, forcing MacMath to make four saves. RSL was unable to get a single shot off in the first half, but withstood 10 from Nashville to go into halftime tied 0-0.

"It wasn't good enough on the ball," Justin Meram said at the half. "We have to be brave. If we defend like that for 90 minutes they're gonna make us pay."

Pablo Ruiz was given a yellow card early in the second half, meaning he will miss next week's match at home against Austin FC. Ruiz and MacMath are the only RSL players to start every match so far this season.

Jasper Loffelsend came on for Maikel Chang in the 62nd minute and Nashville got its first goal of the match soon after in the 64th minute, ending a 244-minute shutout for RSL. A free kick got the ball into RSL's box and Walker Zimmerman's initial shot was blocked on the goal line, only to be rebounded and blasted into the back of the net by Dave Romney.

RSL came back with a couple of chances of its own, highlighted by an Aaron Herrera near-post shot that gave Nashville keeper Joe Willis his first save on the day. Herrera got the ball outside the box off a corner kick and cut inside to take the shot — RSL's best chance to that point. Recent RSL returnee Anderson Julio entered the match in the 75th minute, but it wasn't enough to get the Claret and Cobalt back into it.

C.J. Sapong put the nail the in the coffin in stoppage time with a breakaway goal to seal the 2-0 win for Nashville in just its second match at its new stadium. MacMath finished with six saves on 19 Nashville shots.

"It wasn't sharp. It wasn't our day," Justen Glad said. "It's just one game. We'll get back to it next week."

RSL returns home to take on Austin FC at Rio Tinto Stadium Saturday at 7:30 p.m. MDT.

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Caleb Turner covers Real Salt Lake as the team's beat writer for KSL.com, in addition to his role where he oversees the sports team's social media accounts.

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