Columbus Crew SC advanced in the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs, bringing Nashville SC's Cinderella run to a heartbreaking end with a 2-0 extratime victory at MAPFRE Stadium. The victory sends the Crew through to the Eastern Conference Final, where they'll face off with the New England Revolution, who won their Semifinals match against Orlando City SC 3-1 earlier on Sunday.
After a hard-fought 90 minutes that saw neither side able to find the scoresheet, Pedro Santos scored the go-ahead goal for Columbus in the ninth minute of extra time, with Gyasi Zardes adding the insurance with a goal of his own in the 103rd minute.
Columbus arguably had the better of the play out of the gate, but it was Nashville that got closest to scoring in the first half, off a pair of set-piece looks that missed the opener by a matter of inches.
The first came from Jhonder Cadiz in the 24th minute, as the Designated Player forward lept in the box and headed down a pinpoint corner kick from Daniel Lovitz, but Columbus goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell did well to get low and save the attempt just before it crossed the line. Dax McCarty then had a look his own off another Lovitz corner kick three minutes later, this time beating Tarbell with a snapped header, only to be denied by the woodwork.
The match would stay scoreless into the second half, with Zardes coming closest to finding a breakthrough in regulation in the 78th minute with a point-blank look off a low cross from Luis Diaz. But Nashville 'keeper Joe Willis made a huge reaction save to preserve the scoreless deadlock.
The contest would be forced into extratime, where the Crew finally got the decisive goal after Zardes got free on a breakaway down the left side and found Santos in front of goal, allowing the Portuguese winger to slot home the finish.
Zardes then added the dagger just four minutes later on another breakaway opportunity, this time finishing the shot himself to seal off the 2-0 final and send the Crew through.
- THE BIG PICTURE: They had to work for every bit of it against a stingy Nashville defense, but salute to the Crew for a massive performance at the end of a challenging week. Caleb Porter's group have been a top-tier side in the East all season, and are deserved conference finalists. The matchup against a red-hot Revs side is a tasty one. On the flip side, it's a tough ending for Nashville SC, but they can take immense pride in an expansion season where they defied plenty of preseason predictions in even making the playoffs, let alone getting two postseason wins. There's plenty to look forward to in the Music City.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: For a while, it felt like it might never come. But with Santos' breakthrough goal, the Crew got the huge opener that wound up as the decisive tally.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Zardes did great work to set up Santos for that first goal, and his subsequent finish ensured there would be no dramatic equalizer. The US international gets the honors for this one.
- CLB: Sunday, December 6 vs. New England Revolution (Time TBD) | Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Final
- NSH: End of season