Alabama FC hosted Nashville Rhythm FC in a battle for table leader as the two sit in the first and second positions of the Southeast Conference
Published Jun 12, 2021

As the league enters its halfway point in the 2021 season, the competition is heating up across the board – specifically in the Southeast Conference. It was undetermined prior to the season opener which matches on the Southeast Conference schedule would be big table-deciders but after four matches in, Friday’s match between Nashville Rhythm FC and Alabama FC would be just that.

Table leaders, Nashville (4-0-0), would have its truest test on the field as they traveled to face Alabama FC (3-0-1) who were sitting at their heels in second place in the standings. The feat would make for a big test for the Birmingham side as well, with Alabama’s only loss on the season coming from their first meeting with the Rhythm on May 28 which ended in a 1-0 final.

As the first whistle sounded, it was clear this was going to be a fierce battle for the next 90+ minutes.

The Alabama backline led by sophomore defender out of the University of South Alabama, Morgan White, felt Nashville’s persistent pressure in the early going of the match. Holding firm, Alabama was able to shift momentum around the mid-point of the first half as midfielder, Lucy Thrasher moved possession into Nashville territory.

Capitalizing on the possession swing, the Alabama side sees out every opportunity to increase pressure on Nashville’s backline and zero in on scoring chances. After a blocked shot from teammate Hailey Whitaker and keeping the pressure high, midfielder Tara Kartz would win back possession while moving the ball out to the left side of the 18’ and driving into the net, putting Alabama up 1-0 in the 33rd minute.

The lead wouldn’t hold for long as the goal clearly motivated the visiting side.

Soon after, Nashville created an opportunity with a promptly earned corner kick but Alabama goalkeeper, Haleigh Holland, deflected the shot past the goal which resulted in a corner kick for the Rhythm on the opposite side. Even so, Nashville wouldn’t capitalize despite getting a head on it – the Rhythm wouldn’t find their equalizer from a set piece.

Nashville forward, Peyton DePriest out of Middle Tennessee State, would create her own opportunity in the 35th minute by beating an Alabama defender and sending a strong shot into the goal – finally putting Nashville on the board.

In a matter of two minutes, the match would be level again and the one-all score would hold the remainder of the first half.

The second half opened differently than the first, with Alabama providing more of the pressure head-on. Earning a corner kick in the 50th minute, Alabama appeared to have taken the lead with a fantastic header from midfielder, Kaylee Dressback. The Official, however, called the Dressback for pushing off and the score would stay even.

The battle continued intensely and eventually created a breaking point.

In the 77th minute the Official awarded Nashville a free kick near midfield, and they attempted to play the ball quickly. Staying on Nashville’s heels, Alabama squashed the Rhythm’s momentum as a player stepped in front of the kick. However, this resulted in a yellow card for the Alabama side, one of which head coach, Jay Hammond, called a “tactical yellow”.

Awarded a retake, Nashville sent this ball into Alabama’s box finding Rhythm veteran, Addie Forbus, who flicked the ball onto a charging Sandra Jakobsen who then volleyed over the keeper and into the goal – giving Nashville a 2-1 lead.

Both teams kept fighting in the final minutes, which provided another contentious moment.

Alabama appeared to earn a corner kick in the 85th minute, but the Official instead called a goal kick. Hammond disagreed, and he, too, received a yellow card. Alabama would receive a corner kick in the 90th minute, as their last-stitch effort to equalize but Nashville denied them the opportunity, holding the score at 2-1 at the final whistle.

Despite the disappointing result, Hammond still sees promise and room to improve for his Alabama side.

“With our chances . . . we’re looking to be a little more clinical,” Hammond said after the match. “I would like to have seen us take more shots . . . and defensively, we just need to be more organized, which we fixed in the second half.”

Nashville improves to a 5-0 record, staying undefeated and increasing their advantage in the standings with a two-match lead. The Rhythm have now outscored opponents 13-3, solidifying their backline dominance and aggressive offense.

“We’ve defended well,” Scott Davidson, Nashville head coach, said. “We’ve continued to take a step forward with every game.”

Still not out of the race, Alabama now sits in the standings tied with Chattanooga Lady Red Wolves. Only conceding five goals this season, Alabama still looks strong offensively and has plenty of opportunities to make up points.

Both teams play their next match tomorrow, June 13th, as Alabama host Peachtree City MOBA and the Rhythm welcome the Lady Red Wolves


    Author:   Josh Dowdy,  @heartofauburn (twitter)
                   WPSL Contributor, South Region