Nashville SC’s historic 2020 season keeps rolling. The Boys In Gold were victorious over Toronto FC, with Daniel Ríos scoring the winner in the second half of extra time to complete an unlikely victory over one of the truly elite sides in Major League Soccer.
With Aníbal Godoy unavailable due to injury, head coach Gary Smith plugged Brian Anunga right in and kept the rest of the lineup unchanged.
Nashville started the match brightly, putting Toronto under a bit of pressure and seeing a Jhonder Cádiz header ruled out for offside. However, Toronto eventually began to dictate the tempo and create chances. Nick DeLeon forced Joe Willis into a pair of saves, and Alejandro Pozuelo put an effort wide from outside the box.
The real moment of controversy came in the 32nd minute, when Toronto midfielder kicked out at Alex Muyl after the play. Referee Robert Sibiga didn’t call for a foul in real time, but VAR took a look and decided no further review was needed.
This challenge from Toronto's Jonathan Osorio on Nashville's Alex Muyl went unpunished.— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 25, 2020
Thoughts? #MLSCupPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/nMofJx5Mkm
The kick was nearly identical to Ruan’s red card againt New York City the round prior, but the lack of action from VAR meant Toronto were able to continue the match with eleven players.
The second half was all Nashville. A side that struggled to create chances for long stretches of the season, the Boys In Gold set up several gilt-edged opportunities. Jhonder Cádiz saw another goal disallowed for offside. Hany Mukhtar and Alex Muyl each missed a pair of headers from almost point-blank range, and Randall Leal flashed a volley just wide of the top corner.
With the score deadlocked, Nashville took Toronto into extra time, an impressive feat on its own. The visitors thought they had won the match early in the first period, as Mukhtar was played in behind Toronto’s defense and finished with a world-class chip over the head of Quentin Westberg. However, the assistant referee pulled it back for offside, the third disallowed goal of the night for Nashville.
It was Daniel Ríos, the first signing made for Nashville’s MLS roster, who found the winner in the 108th minute. Mukhtar took hold of the ball on the top of the box and finagled his way past three Toronto defenders. Westberg got a hand to Mukhtar’s shot, but not enough to keep it from rolling towards the goal.
Ríos was the first to react, continuing his run and pouncing on the loose ball to score with one of the easiest finishes of his career.
DANIEL RÍOS. THE BREAKTHROUGH.#EveryoneN #TORvNSH pic.twitter.com/LZNso6f1Vu— x – Nashville SC (@NashvilleSC) November 25, 2020
Against a Toronto side who were one of the best sides in the league this season, an elite side who have appeared in three of the last four MLS Cups, Nashville didn’t just survive. They dominated. The win was well deserved, and will increase the confidence of a Nashville side that have exceeded expectations thus far.
Next up for the Boys in Gold, a date with Columbus Crew in the Eastern Conference semifinals on Sunday.
Shots: Toronto 12 – 21 Nashville
Shots on goal: Toronto 4 – 6 Nashville
Expected goals: Toronto 1.56 – 3.07 Nashville
Goals: Toronto 0 – 1 Nashville
Possession: Toronto 61.7% – 38.3% Nashville
Yellow cards: Toronto 0 – 0 Nashville
Red cards: Toronto 0 – 0 Nashville