Hartford, Conn. (Nov. 24, 2020) – Nashville SC (2W-0L-0D) advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs after defeating Toronto FC (0W-1L-0D) with a goal from substitute striker Daniel Ríos in the second half of extra time. Nashville saw three goals disallowed for offside along the game.
Nashville SC moves on to face Columbus Crew SC on Sunday, Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN in the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. The Boys in Gold are the first Major League Soccer expansion team to reach this stage of the playoffs since Chicago Fire FC in 1998.
Dominant Defense: Through two playoff matches, Nashville has scored four goals and kept clean sheets in both. The entire defense laid the foundation for goalkeeper Joe Willis’ 11th shutout of the season. Center backs Walker Zimmerman and Dave Romney combined for 16 clearances and allowed just four of Toronto FC’s 12 shots to hit the target. They also combined for 19 ball recoveries and four interceptions. Midfielder Tah Brian Anunga, filling in for the injured Anibal Godoy, made 11 recoveries in his first MLS Cup Playoffs appearance, and his veteran midfield partner Dax McCarty made 13. The deep-lying midfielders combined for eight interceptions and three tackles.
Chance Creation: Striker and Designated Player Jhonder Cádiz scored two goals, but saw both called back by the side judge for offside. Left-back Daniel Lovitz sent in a cross which Cádiz headed into the goal in the 13th minute, but the flag went up immediately after the goal. Cádiz came close a few more times, and attacking midfielder Hany Mukhtar also did, notably when his looping header hit the crossbar in the 90th minute. Mukhtar was the catalyst for the goal in extra time when he found space and took the shot that Ríos finished off the rebound.
Above-Average Joe: Joe Willis played a commanding game, coming out of the goal to claim crosses and making important saves. His biggest save was the point-blank one on a shot from Nick DeLeon in the 26th minute or when he got down to save a flick from striker Ayo Akinola in the 77th minute. In total, he made five saves on the night to help his team advance.
Full-Back Clinic: Left-back Dan Lovitz and rookie right-back Alistair Johnston impacted the game on both ends of the field. They combined for 16 ball recoveries, seven key passes, three interceptions, and three tackles. All three tackles came in Toronto’s half of the pitch, proving how hard they worked to press their opponents. Lovitz, playing against the club that drafted him in 2014, also completed one dribble and took two corner kicks.
NSH – Daniel Ríos (Unassisted) 108th minute: Hany Mukhtar shoots from outside the box and Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg narrowly got a hand on it. The ball spun behind the ‘keeper and Ríos put the ball in the back of the net at the goalmouth.
- This match marks the first-ever meeting between Nashville SC and Toronto FC.
- Nashville SC is the first expansion team to reach the Conference Semifinals since Chicago Fire FC in 1998.
- Nashville was the first team to upset a higher seed in the Eastern Conference in the 2020 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
- Nashville has now won its last four road matches and outscored its opponents 8-3.
- Nashville is one of two teams with zero goals against in the 2020 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
- This match was the first time that two MLS teams met for the first time in their history in the playoffs.
- Daniel Ríos scored his fifth overall goal of the season with his point-blank finish in the 108th minute.
- Left-back Dan Lovitz spent three seasons with Toronto FC, from 2014-2016, and made 41 appearances with 13 starts. They drafted him in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft with the 24th overall pick.
- Right-back Alistair Johnston grew up in a suburb of Toronto, Canada.
- Alex Muyl holds a 7W-2L-5D record when starting for Nashville SC this season.
- Joe Willis recorded his 11th overall shutout of the 2020 season. Willis finished the regular season as the MLS leader in clean sheets.
- Coming into the game, Toronto midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo was tied for the league lead in assists with 10.
- Toronto had 16 days off between their Nov. 8 loss to New York Red Bulls and this game.
Nashville SC travels to Columbus, Ohio on Sunday, Nov. 29 to take on Columbus Crew SC in the Eastern Conference Semifinals at 7:00 pm CT on ESPN. Video Highlights
Nashville SC (2W-0L-0D) vs. Toronto FC
(0W-1L-0D) Nov. 24, 2020 — Rentschler Field, Hartford, Conn.
NSH: Ríos (Mukhtar), 108’
NSH: Joe Willis; Dan Lovitz, Dave Romney, Walker Zimmerman, Alistair Johnston; Dax McCarty, Tah Brian Anunga (Derrick Jones, 105’+1’), Alex Muyl (Taylor Washington, 105’+1’), Hany Mukhtar (Matt LaGrassa, 111’), Randall Leal (Jalil Anibaba, 118’); Jhonder Cádiz (Daniel Ríos, 71’)
Unused Substitutes: Elliot Panicco, Eric Miller, Handwalla Bwana, Dominique Badji
TOTAL SHOTS: 21 (Mukhtar, 6); SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (Muyl, Ríos, 2); FOULS: 18 (Muyl, 5); OFFSIDES: 8; CORNER KICKS: 4; SAVES: 5; POSSESSION: 38.4%
TOR: Quentin Westberg; Auro (Tony Gallacher, 101’), Omar González (Liam Fraser, 111’), Chris Mavinga, Richie Laryea (Erickson Gallardo, 112’); Jonathan Osorio, Michael Bradley, Pablo Piatti (Ralph Priso-Mbongue, 101’), Alejandro Pozuelo, Nick DeLeon (Ayo Akinola, 62’); Jozy Altidore (Patrick Mullins, 82’)
Unused Substitutes: Alex Bono, Laurent Ciman, Eriq Zavaleta
TOTAL SHOTS: 12 ; SHOTS ON GOAL: 4; FOULS: 6; OFFSIDES: 1; CORNER KICKS: 4; SAVES: 5; POSSESSION: 61.6%
Referee: Robert Sibiga
Assistant Referees: CJ Morgante, Ian Mckay
Fourth Official: Rubiell Vazquez
VAR: Alan Kelly
Weather: Clear, 37 degrees
Statistics are unofficial.