Nashville SC and the Columbus Crew met just one time during the MLS regular season. Nashville fell 2-0 on Sept. 19 at MAPFRE Stadium, but head coach Gary Smith believes things will be different when the two sides face off in the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Nov. 29 (8 pm ET | TV & streaming info).
“I think we're a better team. I think we're a more confident team,” Smith told the media on Friday. “We certainly won't go there with any fear after Tuesday's result — I'm not sure we would have done anyway — but we certainly won't after Tuesday’s result. And we'll look forward to I think giving a better account of ourselves than we did, what was it, six weeks ago.”
NSH have only lost two matches since then and after knocking out Toronto FC in Round One of the 2020 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, confidence is high with the Boys in Gold.
“It was a very, very good performance all around on Tuesday night, not just a victory, but a comprehensive one against a very, very good team. So that does wonders for everyone's morale and positivity,” Smith said.
While Nashville’s defense has been solid all year, the offense has struggled at times. But with all three of their attacking Designated Players coming into form, things are trending upward at the right time and Nashville have outscored their opponents 7-2 in their last three games.
“The addition of Jhonder [Cadiz] has I think helped the group," Smith said. "Hany [Mukhtar] is coming back from some niggly problems. Randall [Leal]'s probably been the most productive out of our attacking group of players. And now to bring all three of them together and to see him producing on the field, I think puts a little bit of doubt in an opponent's mind, but also gives the rest of the group another dimension and a lift. So, it's certainly very, very pleasing to see all three of them out there."
Left back Daniel Lovitz agreed.
“This is a great time for them to sort of be syncing up and to be confident, so for us, it's great. We're going to continue to do what we do and improve on the defensive side, but I still think we have an offensive next gear that we can hit and then we're slowly starting to sort of grow into. It's led by those guys that have been doing the hard work all year and they're finally starting to click up top.”