Nashville SC’s impressive expansion year ended on Sunday night. The first-year club fell 2-0 to Columbus Crew SC, forcing the home side into extra time in a hard fought battle for a spot in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Just five days after Nashville’s 1-0 win over Toronto, head coach Gary Smith went with an unchanged lineup. Brian Anunga retained his spot in midfield, with Aníbal Godoy still sidelined with injury.
The match saw Nashville weather periods of pressure from Columbus, with Luis Díaz in particular causing problems with his crossing down the right wing. Gyasi Zardes was a constant threat in the box, forcing a couple of last-ditch clearances with smart runs to the back post.
Nashville had their own chances to score. Jhonder Cádiz forced a save with a powerful header off a set piece, and a Dax McCarty header went off the underside of the bar before bouncing to safety. As against Toronto, Nashville defended well and looked for moments going forward on the break.
As the second half went on, Columbus began to control more and more possession. Nashville were able to mostly funnel them out wide and prevent them from having much success from central areas.
Neither side could break the deadlock in regulation. For the second time in a week, Nashville were forced into extra time to find a winner.
It was Columbus who found that winner. Walker Zimmerman was caught high after challenging for a ball, and Zardes got in behind. The striker drove into the box before cutting back for Pedro Santos to tap home.
Just three minutes later, Columbus added another. Again Zimmerman was caught upfield, and Luis Díaz played a defense splitting pass to Zardes, who had time and space to calmly slot past Willis.
Nashville threw bodies forward for the remainder of the match, but Columbus defended well. Even Walker Zimmerman playing as a striker couldn’t get the visitors on the board.
Nashville bow out of the playoffs after an impressive expansion season. The Boys In Gold defied expectations to become just the sixth expansion side to qualify for the postseason, and the second to win a playoff match since Chicago Fire in 1998.
Columbus will host eight-seeded New England Revolution next weekend in the conference finals. Nashville SC will return home to continue to build for 2021.
Shot: Columbus 16 – 17 Nashville
Shots on goal: Columbus 4 – 4 Nashville
Expected goals: Columbus 2.29 – 0.88 Nashville
Goals: Columbus 2 – 0 Nashville
Possession: Columbus 53.3% – 46.7% Nashville
Yellow cards: Columbus 0 – 2 Nashville
Red cards: Columbus 0 – 0 Nashville