In front of a packed Nissan Stadium, Nashville SC punched its ticket to the second round of the MLS Cup Playoffs last night (Nov. 23) after beating Orlando City FC 3-1 behind Hany Mukhtar’s two goals.
Nashville fell behind early after Orlando’s Daryl Dike scored in the 14th minute off of a beautiful corner kick by Mauricio Pereira.
But in typical fashion, the goal didn’t faze NSC who played tough to level the game at 1-1 in the 21st minute with a goal by Mukhtar.
“We certainly had some good moments and dictated the game for good periods and so did they,” said head coach Gary Smith in a postgame press conference. “But it wasn’t until Hany scored that second goal–which was a tremendous individual moment–that it really separated the groups and gave us an opportunity to feel that there was a chance that we’re gonna win this game.”
In the second half, both teams fought to put shots on goal and Orlando would go on to possess the ball 65% of the time.
But that didn’t matter in the 74th minute when Mukhtar scored his second goal of the night, giving Nashville the lead and the eventual win.
“That’s what’s good about our team,” said Mukhtar. “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.”
Goalkeeper Joe Willis gave up only one goal and one save, proving the excellence played by Nashville’s defensive lead Walker Zimmerman. NSC won over 56% of the duels in the second half.
In stoppage time, Jhonder Cadiz scored the club’s third goal of the night, solidifying Nashville’s dominant performance and comeback victory.
“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,” said Smith.
The Boys in Gold will head to Philadelphia this Sunday, Nov. 28 to face the Philadelphia Union who is coming off a 1-0 win against the New York Red Bulls.
Nashville played Philly twice this year, winning the first meetup 1-0 and losing the last one on Oct. 23 1-0.
The match will air on ESPN at 4:30 p.m. CT.
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