Nashville is invested in this World Cup like none before

Soccer fans react as they watch the U.S. men's national team play Wales at a World Cup watch party at Geodis Park Monday, Nov. 21, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn.

I guess I don’t need to tell you how one of Nashville SC’s players made an impact for the United States in Monday’s World Cup match in Qatar.

If you were watching along with the rest of the world, you noticed.

You saw Nashville defenseman Walker Zimmerman make the deeply regrettable decision to tackle a Wales player with his back to the goal. You saw how bad the handling was. You saw how the referee awarded a penalty. Then you saw Gareth Bale convert that penalty to save Wales.

I can’t say that Zimmerman’s foul cost the USA the game, because the Americans didn’t lose. It just felt that way. The 1-1 draw was a disappointing result after they led for around 45 minutes of football before conceding a penalty in the 82nd minute.

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And so, at GEODIS Park — where I joined Nashville SC fans in gathering to watch and cheer Zimmerman on, which they’d been doing with pride all afternoon — the atmosphere was muted.

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Sports can be like that.

More than ever, it showed how Nashville has a piece of this World Cup like never before.

Zimmerman is on the US men’s national team along with Nashville SC teammate Shaq Moore, who did not play against Wales.

When Bale made his MLS debut last summer for LAFC, it was in a game at Geodis Park. We knew then that Bale would lead Wales against the USA in a World Cup match enthusiastically anticipated by every side.

Wales' Gareth Bale, right, successfully appeals for a penalty following a foul on United States' Walker Zimmerman during the World Cup Group B soccer match between the United States and Wales at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Monday, Nov. 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

The USA did not qualify in 2018, which meant that the last time our men’s national team appeared at the World Cup was in 2014.

Just look at what’s happened in Nashville since then.

We have a Major League Soccer franchise. We have a new football stadium at the Fairgrounds, and as a result, there are a growing number of local residents getting to know the beautiful game.

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