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.
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.
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.