Nashville SC Closes out Regular Season with History-Making 3-0 Win over Atlanta United 2
NASHVILLE - Nashville Soccer Club closed out its final USL Championship regular season on Saturday night in the same way that it started: a decisive win over a young MLS development squad.
Nashville's 3-0 win over Atlanta United 2 gave Nashville 67 points on the season, good for a second-place finish in the Eastern Conference. That's an improvement of 18 points from last season. Nashville also enters the playoffs on a four-match win streak, and it took a strong effort to keep the momentum going into the playoffs.
"The guys pressed really well, I thought they put a lot of energy and met the resistance that Atlanta brought because they've got some promising young talent," said assistant coach Brett Jacobs, who filled in for head coach Gary Smith on the touchline. "As the game and the first half wore on and we scored, I thought we got a really good foothold in the game and controlled the first half. In the second half, I thought we were very happy to sit on a lead and probably didn't manage the game as well as I would have liked. We made some changes and got some fresh legs on and people that needed minutes. But overall, against a good MLS developmental group like that, a 3-0 win with a clean sheet is what matters. I thought it was a good performance."
Saturday's playoff tune-up also saw a couple of Nashville stalwarts make some history. Matt Pickens' clean sheet helped him clinch the USL Championship Golden Boot with a 0.64 goals against average. It was an impressive season for the 37-year-old veteran keeper, but Pickens was quick to spread the credit around for the Golden Boot honor.
"For me, it means more for the team collectively," Pickens said. "It's not an award for me. This guy [Daniel RÃos] works his tail off defensively as well. So it's not just me, it's these guys, Bolu [Akinyode], Matt [LaGrassa] in the middle. It's a team award and that's how I look at it. Congrats to us on having a very good regular season, but we're in it for trophies. That's where our mentality is at. We're happy where we're at. We want to keep this thing going."
In addition, RÃos scored a brace to finish the regular season with 20 goals, becoming the first player in league history to score 20 goals in back-to-back seasons. RÃos was thrilled to etch his name into the history books after a season of hard work.
"It's a gift for myself of the hard work during the whole season," RÃos said. "It has been seven or eight months since preseason, so it's awesome that the last game of the season I can achieve two goals that I was looking for the last two or three games. I feel great. I'm happy right now. My family and my teammates are congratulating me, and I'm really happy about it."
With the regular season in the rearview mirror, Nashville SC now turns its attention to the USL Championship Playoffs. It will face the highest remaining seed after the Play-In Round at First Tennessee Park this Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT and is presented by Nissan. Smith and his team are happy to be stepping into the postseason on the right foot.
"When all is said and done, we needed to win, we won well, we're going to the playoffs in a good frame of mind with good momentum, and we'll all look forward to that in a week," Smith said.
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