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What to Watch for as Nashville SC Faces off against Columbus Crew SC in Eastern Conference Semifinals

November 28, 2020 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - Nashville SC News Release


NASHVILLE - Seventh-seeded Nashville SC's first run in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs takes it to Columbus, Ohio on Sunday night for a matchup with third-seeded Columbus Crew SC.

The Boys in Gold are coming off of a thrilling 1-0 win over Toronto FC that required extra time and a late goal by Daniel Ríos to seal the win. The winner of this Eastern Conference Semifinal will face the winner of the Orlando City SC-New England Revolution match in the Eastern Conference Final.

Here's everything you need to know about Sunday's match:

Date: Sunday, November 28

Time: 7:00 p.m. CT

Location: MAPFRE Stadium

TV: ESPN, ESPN Deportes

Stream: ESPN.com, ESPN App

English Radio: ESPN 94.9

Spanish Radio: El Jefe 96.7

Confidence and Belief - Nashville owned the majority of the offense against Toronto FC, outshooting the Reds 21-12. By most metrics, it was a dominant showing against the second-seeded team in the East.

Head Coach Gary Smith says that kind of decisive win will help a team that is already becoming more and more confident in itself.

"I think we're growing as a group with confidence and belief in what we're capable of with every hurdle we jump," Smith said. "It was a very good performance all around on Tuesday night, not just the victory but a comprehensive one against a really good team. On multiple occasions, I think we've seen this group go about their business, attack the game, stick to a plan and ultimately come out on top when most people feel as though we maybe shouldn't have. That's testimony to such a spirited and talented group that we have, and one that's still growing. I think that's the thing as well. There's so much more to come out of this group."

An Evolved Group - The Boys in Gold faced Columbus on Saturday, Sept. 19, losing 2-0 on the road. However, the scoreline didn't reflect Nashville's overall performance in the match. Nashville outshot Columbus 15-8, but Crew SC's clinical finishing in the second half spelled doom for Nashville SC.

In the 12 regular season matches that followed that loss, Nashville lost just twice. Smith believes this team has changed since coming up short in Columbus.

"I think we're a better team, I think we're a more confident team," Smith said. "We certainly won't go in there with any fear after Tuesday's result, and we'll look forward to giving a better account of ourselves than we did six weeks ago."

Designated Players Getting Going - Tuesday's match was just the second time that all three of Nashville's Designated Players started a match together.

Smith says he's been happy with how Hany Mukhtar, Randall Leal and Jhonder Cádiz have linked up recently, and how it's boosted his team.

"We've been unfortunate in the fact that we've either had someone injured, we haven't fulfilled all three slots or in the process of growth, there's just not been much of a connection," Smith said. "But all of those things are starting to come good at the right time. The addition of Jhonder has helped the group. Hany is coming back from some nagging injuries. Randall has been the most productive out of our attacking group of players. Now to bring all three of them together and to see them producing on the field, I think puts a little bit of doubt in our opponents' minds, but also gives the rest of the group another dimension and a lift."


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