Columbus Crew close out Nashville 2-0 to advance in MLS playoffs

Columbus Crew SC have advanced in the 2020 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, bringing Nashville SC’s Cinderella run to a heartbreaking end with a 2-0 extra-time victory at MAPFRE Stadium. The victory sends the Crew through to the Eastern Conference Final, where they’ll face off with the New England Revolution, who won their Semifinals match against Orlando City SC 3-1 earlier on Sunday.

After a hard-fought 90 minutes that saw neither side able to find the scoresheet, Pedro Santos scored the go-ahead goal for Columbus in the ninth minute of extra time, with Gyasi Zardes adding the insurance with a goal of his own in the 103rd minute.

Columbus arguably had the better of the play out of the gate, but it was Nashville that got closest to scoring in the first half, off a pair of set piece looks that missed the opener by a matter of inches.

The first came from Jhonder Cadiz in the 24th minute, as the Designated Player forward skied in the box and headed down a pinpoint corner kick from Daniel Lovitz, but Columbus goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell did well to get low and save the attempt just before it crossed the line. Dax McCarty then had a look his own off another Lovitz corner kick three minutes later, this time beating Tarbell with a snapped header, only to be denied by the woodwork.

The match would stay scoreless into the second half, with Zardes coming closest to finding a breakthrough in regulation in the 78th minute with a point-blank look off a low cross from Luis Diaz. But Nashville ‘keeper Joe Willis made a huge reaction save to preserve the scoreless deadlock.

The contest would be forced into extra time, where the Crew finally got the decisive goal after Zardes got free on a breakaway down the left side and found Santos in front of goal, allowing the Portuguese winger to slot home the finish.

Zardes then added the dagger just four minutes later on another breakaway opportunity, this time finishing the shot himself to seal off the 2-0 final and send the Crew through.