2021.10.23 @ PHI-23

One down, three to go.  

Third-seeded Nashville SC heads north to Pennsylvania to take on the second-seeded Philadelphia Union in the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs on Sunday evening. The Boys in Gold are coming off a history-making 3-1 win over Orlando City SC in the First Round on Tuesday night at Nissan Stadium in front of 26,043 fans.  

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. It also extended its home unbeaten run to 19 matches overall dating back to November 20, 2020. In addition, Nashville SC improved its MLS Cup Playoff record to 3W-1L with the win and has reached the Audi MLS Cup Eastern Conference Semifinals for the second consecutive season. 

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Union are coming off a dramatic 1-0 extra time win over New York Red Bulls in the first round. Nashville and Philadelphia finished the regular season tied on points, with the Union owning the tiebreaker to finish in second place. The two teams split the regular season series evenly, with each side earning a 1-0 win at home.  

Here’s everything you need to know about Sunday’s match: 

Date: Sunday, Nov. 28 

Time: 4:30 p.m. CT 

Location: Subaru Park (Chester, Pa.) 

TV: ESPN and ESPN Deportes 

Stream: ESPN App 

English Radio: ESPN 94.9 

Spanish Radio: El Jefe 96.7  

Sunnier in Philadelphia – Nashville SC has faced the Union twice this season. In the first matchup on July 3 at Nissan Stadium, Nashville SC won 1-0 thanks to an early CJ Sapong strike against his former club. In the second match on Oct. 23, Philadelphia beat Nashville 1-0 at Subaru Park, with the lone goal coming on a first-half penalty.

Head Coach Gary Smith says his team will take plenty of lessons from that Oct. 23 loss into this match on the road.

“We’re under no illusions,” Smith said. “The game that we played there not so long ago was a tough one. We lost by the odd goal, but there was an awful lot to take out of their game and a lot of experience to draw on. We’ll look forward to the game, but we know it’s going to be tough.”

Helping Hany – MVP finalist Hany Mukhtar was the star of the show on Tuesday night, netting a brace to lift Nashville SC to a 3-1 win. With the goals, Mukhtar now has three MLS Cup Playoff goals in four matches.

The German midfielder has been a major focal point in Nashville SC’s attack, but missed Nashville’s last road match at Philadelphia due to yellow card accumulation. Smith says he knows the Union will be planning to slow down Mukhtar, and he hopes to be able to counteract that attention throughout the match.

“I don’t know what [Philadelphia Head Coach] Jim [Curtin] plans to do, but I know what we plan to do to try and offer Hany the sort of opportunity and platform to be successful,” Smith said. “We know what he can achieve when we give him that type of space and freedom, and it’ll be as much about the other guys as it is about Hany. We need to win enough of the ball, we need to affect the game in other areas to offer Hany a bit of space. If we can do that, then I’m sure Hany will be able to take advantage of that. If we don’t, then there’ll be one or two players on their team that will be looking to do likewise.”

Backline Road Trip – After a raucous and loud crowd of 26,043 boosted Nashville SC to victory on Tuesday night, a contingent of Gold-clad traveling supporters are expected to make their way to Subaru Park on Sunday to cheer on the Boys in Gold.

Goalkeeper Joe Willis says that fan support can make a difference, even on the road.

“Anytime we have fans on the road with us, we know they’re there, and we can hear them,” Willis said. “It means a lot to us just to know they’re taking time out of their schedules and spending the money to come see us play and come support us. It means a lot to us, and we recognize it and appreciate it.”