ORLANDO, Fla. - In the 87th minute of Sunday’s Decision Day pres. by AT&T match against Orlando City SC, it looked as if Nashville was headed for back-to-back defeats for the first time since August and destined to enter the playoffs on a losing note.
Five minutes later, everything had changed.
Nashville scored in the 88th and 90’+3’ minutes to secure the club’s first come-from-behind win, clinching seventh place in the Eastern Conference and an Audi MLS Cup Playoffs date with the 10th-seeded Inter Miami CF.
Call it grit. Call it toughness. Head Coach Gary Smith also says you can call it a statement.
“In the end, I think we showed some serious credentials here today,” Smith said after the match. “Hopefully one or two teams take notice and have a little bit more concern about as we move to the postseason. I’m delighted with the three points, ecstatic that we finished the season with a victory and that we obtained seventh in our first season. We now have a blockbuster game against Inter Miami CF at home. I’m not sure anybody could have wished for much more in the first season.”
Nashville entered the final minutes of the match down 2-1 after an Orlando free kick from Portuguese international attacker Nani gave the home side the lead. Hany Mukhtar entered the match in the 76th minute and flipped the match around. His goal in the 88th minute tied things up, and his free kick assist to Jhonder Cádiz sealed all three points for Nashville.
Defender Dan Lovitz, whose first-half goal put Nashville on the board, said this match was one for the ages.
“These are the nights that make what we do all the more enjoyable and energizes the group,” Lovitz said. “What an important time and special time this season to have a performance like this. Most importantly, it’s a progression and step in the right direction for us. The timing couldn’t be better, but we’re realistic. We know there are some things we need to do better. It’s always great to score goals away from home. From a defensive standpoint we can always look to improve and keep the ball out of the back of the net, but we’re in a really good mental space at the moment.”
Now, Nashville will have 11 days before its first match of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs on Friday, November 20 against Inter Miami CF at Nissan Stadium. The Boys in Gold will face off against their 2020 expansion counterparts for the third time in 2020, having won and drawn the previous two contests.
Smith says he’s excited to get to prepare for such a pivotal and interesting matchup.
“It’s been a great story line for the league,” Smith said. “Miami looked absolutely out in the cold at one point and have turned their form around. They’ve had a couple of terrific wins. Today’s result under pressure shows that they’re certainly on the march; there’s a wealth of talent out front and creatively as we all know. The two styles of the teams go together very well, and it should make for a very upbeat, pulsating, and passionate playoff tie at Nissan Stadium.”
Nashville SC faces Inter Miami CF on Friday, November 20 at 8 p.m. CT on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes.