A brace from MVP finalist Hany Mukhtar launched Nashville SC past Orlando City in Round One of the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs. The Boys In Gold advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinal and road trip to Philadelphia Union on Sunday, November 28.
Dave Romney missed his second-ever match for Nashville with a hamstring injury, with Jack Maher slotting into his spot on the left.
Alistair Johnston dropped into a deeper role on the right of the back three, with Eric Miller moving into a more advanced wingback role.
The 90 minutes
As has become the custom at Nissan Stadium, Nashville conceded first. Daryl Dike scored in his fifth consecutive game, towering above Dan Lovitz to head home a set piece. Nashville’s had plenty of problems defending set pieces in 2021, and the goal seemed to signify a long night for the home side.
Hany Mukhtar had other ideas. The MVP finalist scored an equalizer in the 21st minute, albeit with a hefty deflection from Antônio Carlos. His second was pure class, breezing past four Orlando defenders and dispatching a left-footed finish past Pedro Gallese.
Substitute Jhonder Cádiz iced the game on a frigid night in Music City, bullying Carlos off the ball before finding the corner of the net with a cool finish.
The big picture
Nashville’s win advances them to the Eastern Conference semifinals. They’ll take on Philadelphia Union at Subaru Park on Sunday, November 28. The two sides traded 1-0 wins during the regular season, and finished tied on points during the regular season. The Union edged Nashville on wins, the first tiebreaker in MLS.
The match pits the number two and three seeds in a head to head matchup that’s as tight as it gets on paper. Kickoff is slated for 4:30 pm central on ESPN.