NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Nov. 20, 2020) – Seventh-seeded Nashville SC (1W-0D-0L) buried 10th-seeded Inter Miami CF (0W-0D-1L) 3-0 at Nissan Stadium in the play-in round of the 2020 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs Friday night to advance to the first round of the playoffs. The Boys in Gold will now face No. 2 seed Toronto FC on Tuesday, Nov. 24 at 5 p.m. CT in East Hartford, Conn.
Nashville became the second expansion team in league history to win a playoff match, as they shut out Miami for the third match in 2020.
Nashville maintained momentum from its 3-2 win over Orlando City SC, and picked up exactly where it left off, scoring two goals in the first 24 minutes of the match. It was the first time Head Coach Gary Smith started all three Designated Players—Hany Mukhtar, Randall Leal and Jhonder Cádiz—together.
Midfielders Dax McCarty, Mukhtar and Leal all got on the scoresheet. Mukhtar scored a penalty while McCarty and Leal each scored long-range shots off of lengthy dribbles down the middle of the field.
Big Names, Big Game, Big Performances: The Boys in Gold held over 71% possession in the first 20 minutes and Leal opened the scoring in the 14th minute when he ran through the midfield unopposed and laced a shot into the top of the net. Alex Muyl sparked the attack by winning a second ball and flicking a pass into Leal’s stride. In the 24th minute, Nashville broke down the Inter Miami backline again which saw Mukhtar win a penalty and score from the spot. In his first start of the season, Cádiz played an instrumental role in holding the ball up to let Leal, Mukhtar, and Muyl make runs around him, and he never hesitated to try to find them with tricky passes. The hosts also started the second half quickly with McCarty’s goal coming just 12 minutes after the break.
Playoff Clean Sheet: Aided by newly-crowned MLS Defender of the Year Walker Zimmerman, Nashville SC Defensive Player of the Year Dave Romney and the rest of the reliable Nashville backline, goalkeeper Joe Willis kept his 10th clean sheet of the season and his third clean sheet against Inter Miami. The Nashville midfield expertly cut off the supply from Inter Miami’s midfield, ensuring that forward Juan Agudelo hardly saw the ball as he had 20 touches and did not attempt a shot all night. Nashville made 26 clearances and played defense steady enough to limit Inter Miami to three of their nine shots coming from inside the box. Zimmerman made 10 clearances, three ball recoveries, an interception, and a tackle.
McCarty Masterclass: Making his 24th career Audi MLS Cup Playoffs appearance, Dax McCarty was a driving force in Nashville’s convincing win. Aside from his impressive goal and the run that led to it, the 33-year-old played the full 90 minutes and made five clearances, four ball recoveries, one interception, one tackle, and one key pass.
NSH – Randall Leal (Alex Muyl) 14th minute: Miami defender Alvas Powell attempts to head a long pass from center back Dave Romney clear. Alex Muyl flicks the second ball in midfield to Randall Leal, who controls the ball, moves into space, and strikes the ball into the top of the net from around 30 yards away.
NSH - Hany Mukhtar (PK) 24th minute: Hany Mukhtar chases a through ball from Alex Muyl in the penalty area and attempts to round Inter Miami goalkeeper John McCarthy, who trips Mukhtar. Mukhtar steps up to the spot and sends the ball right down the middle while McCarthy dives to his left to double Nashville’s lead.
NSH - Dax McCarty 57th minute: Dax McCarty receives the ball in the midfield circle, dribbles 47 yards to the edge of Miami’s penalty area, and curls the ball into the bottom right corner of the net for his second Nashville goal.
- Tonight was Nashville SC’s first-ever Audi MLS Cup Playoff appearance.
- Nashville SC becomes the second MLS expansion team to win a playoff match in their first season. Chicago Fire, the first MLS expansion team to win a playoff match, went on to win the MLS Cup in 1998.
- Friday night’s attendance at Nissan Stadium was 3,240.
- Winger Randall Leal scored the first goal in Nashville SC MLS Cup Playoff history Leal has contributed to seven to goals (3 goals and 4 assists) in the last 9 games (including tonight)
- Attacking midfielder Hany Mukhtar scored the team’s first-ever penalty kick goal and his fifth goal of the season (including playoffs) in the 24th minute. In his last three appearances, Mukhtar has four goals and two assists.
- With the win, Nashville SC’s record at Nissan Stadium this season moves to 5W-1L-5D.
- Midfielder Dax McCarty scored his third career MLS Cup Playoff goal with his 57th-minute curled shot after a long run down the field.
- Goalkeeper Joe Willis, who led MLS with nine shutouts in the regular season, kept his 10th clean sheet of the season. He also made his 72nd save of the season.
- Nashville SC earned four points in two regular-season matches against Inter Miami CF, winning the season series with a record of 1W-0L-1D against the fellow expansion side.
- Nashville has kept three clean sheets in three matches against Inter Miami this season.
- Nashville started all three of their Designated Players—Hany Mukhtar, Randall Leal and Jhonder Cádiz—in a match for the first time in club history.
- Nashville SC is fifth in the league in goals per game since the road match against Houston Dynamo on Oct. 14.
Nashville SC travels to East Hartford., Conn. on Tuesday, Nov. 24 to take on Toronto FC in the first round of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. The match kicks off at 5:00 p.m. CT and will be nationally broadcast live on FS1, FOX Deportes, ESPN 94.9 and El Jefe 96.7. Video Highlights
Nashville SC (1W-0D-0L) vs. Inter Miami CF (0W-0D-1L)
Nov. 20, 2020 — Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.
NSH: Leal (Muyl), 14’; Mukhtar (PK), 24’; McCarty, 57’
NSH: Johnston (caution), 30’
MIA: Nealis (caution), 5’; Trapp (caution) 31’
NSH: Joe Willis; Dan Lovitz, Dave Romney, Walker Zimmerman, Alistair Johnston; Dax McCarty, Aníbal Godoy (Tah Brian Anunga, 74’), Alex Muyl (Taylor Washington, 80’), Hany Mukhtar (Derrick Jones, 67’), Randall Leal (Handwalla Bwana, 67’); Jhonder Cádiz (Daniel Ríos, 67’)
Unused Substitutes: Elliot Panicco, Jalil Anibaba, Matt LaGrassa, Eric Miller
TOTAL SHOTS: 7 (Leal, Ríos, 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 4 (Leal, McCarthy, Mukhtar, Ríos, 1); FOULS: 22 (Godoy, McCarthy, Muyl, 4); OFFSIDES: 1; CORNER KICKS: 2; SAVES: 3; POSSESSION: 46.1%
MIA: John McCarthy; Dylan Nealis (Matías Pellegrini, 33’), Alvas Powell, AJ DeLaGarza, Nicolás Figal, Mikey Ambrose (Ben Sweat, 76’); Lewis Morgan, Blaise Matuidi, Wil Trapp (Victor Ulloa, 63’), Rodolfo Pizarro; Juan Agudelo (Julián Carranza, 62’)
Unused Substitutes: Drake Callender, Christian Makoun, Brek Shea, Robbie Robinson
TOTAL SHOTS: 9; SHOTS ON GOAL: 3; FOULS: 13; OFFSIDES: 0; CORNER KICKS: 4; SAVES: 1; POSSESSION: 53.9%
Referee: Ismail Elfath
Assistant Referees: Corey Parker, Kyle Atkins
Fourth Official: Dave Gantar
VAR: Daniel Radford
Weather: Clear, 60 degrees.
Statistics are unofficial.