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A moment in time can last forever. 

In Nashville SC’s case, 90 minutes of time on Tuesday night will live on in the club’s, and the city’s history.  

For 90 minutes, Nashville SC put on a show for 26,043 loud and boisterous supporters. And the crowd put on a show in return, waving their gold rally towels and maintaining a decibel level worthy of the music that made this city.  

And when Hany Mukhtar dashed across the 18-yard box and fired a shot through the chilled Nashville air in the 74’ minute to give Nashville SC the lead for good, the wall of sound that erupted from the stands at Nissan Stadium could only be described as magical.

The scenes on the banks of the Cumberland River reverberated throughout the city and the soccer world, and the 3-1 victory sent a message to the rest of Major League Soccer: Nashville SC truly is back for more.

Tuesday night’s win in the First Round of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs further cemented Nashville SC’s place in the record book. With the win, Nashville SC became the only team in the expansion era to win at least one playoff match in each of its first two years of existence. D.C. United accomplished this feat in 1996 and 1997, the first two seasons of the league’s existence.

It also maintained Nashville’s unbeaten home record in 2021. The Boys in Gold have not lost at Nissan Stadium since November 4, 2020. And if that was Nashville SC’s last match at the club’s temporary home, it was an apt curtain call at what has become a fortress for the club.

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Head Coach Gary Smith says the raucous scenes at Nissan Stadium helped the team accomplish these historic feats.

“It was a wonderful crowd tonight,” Smith said. “You know, you could sense the energy, you know a real playoff environment. It was wonderful.”

The match could have gone in a completely different direction early on. The Boys in Gold fell behind 1-0 on a set piece goal in the 14’ minute. Mukhtar responded quickly with a goal of his own seven minutes later to level things up.

Smith attributed Nashville’s resilience to the club’s tough road stretch to end the 2021 regular season.

“We’ve had 10 out of 13 games on the road,” Smith said. “I can’t stress to you what that does to the mentality of a team, when you go away game after game after game against some tough teams. You’ve got to roll your sleeves up, you’ve got to work hard. You’re concentrating on all of the – not the finer qualities – but the core qualities of the team. If you don’t work hard and you don’t compete, then you don’t get a result.”

Mukhtar’s go-ahead goal was a moment of individual brilliance. But it was CJ Sapong’s distribution and positioning that made the goal happen. Sapong found Mukthar in space in the attacking third then made a cutting run towards goal, drawing the Orlando City center backs towards him in the process. This allowed Mukhtar to have space to cut across the 18-yard box and place his shot across the face of the goal and into the back of the net.

The brace from Nashville’s Major League Soccer MVP finalist gave him three in his Audi MLS Cup Playoffs career, the most in club history. It was also Mukhtar’s fifth multi-goal outing of 2021.

The goal scorer said that moment embodied Nashville SC’s team-first mentality.

“That’s what’s good about our team,” Mukhtar said. “It’s not about the individual. In the end, one has to score, but we know that we have to fight for each other. We have to give everything. If you look at the second goal, of course they’ll say, ‘yeah, you did good,’ but if CJ wouldn’t [have] made the run, the right back would’ve stayed in position and I would not have scored a goal. So in the end, one [person] has to score the goal, but we are a great team. We fight for each other and that makes us so strong.”

Nashville now heads to the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the second consecutive season, where a date with the Philadelphia Union on Sunday night awaits. Click here to RSVP to Nashville SC’s Eastern Conference Semifinal watch party at Central BBQ.