Two very different emotions emanated from Red Bull Arena Tuesday night. While the Montreal Impact tried to shake away the disappointment of a crucial loss, Nashville SC felt the joy of grabbing an equally important 1-0 win.
The win took Nashville up to seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings, one point away from the New England Revolution in the sixth and last spot to avoid a play-in game. And the expansion side refused to stick to the stereotype of first year clubs being delighted merely to make the playoffs. On the contrary, Nashville now have grander ambitions.
“I think obviously when you're an expansion team in that first year, a lot of people create that storyline which is like are they gonna make playoffs or not but I think we've shown that we're very much good enough to make playoffs and that really shouldn't be the goal for us for us,” said Alex Muyl, whose quick free-kick created the game's only goal for Randall Leal in the 33rd minute.
“It should be placement, how high can we go, how much can we continue to build on form and continue to get points and move our way up the table. We have guys in this team who are very ambitious. Just making playoffs, as much as that might be an accomplishment, that's the bottom line, that's the very least for us.”
After a challenging start to life in MLS, Nashville have now lost just twice in their last 14 games and taken 10 points from their last four games. But asked if his squad had exceeded his own expectations in 2020, head coach Gary Smith replied without hesitation that “the easy answer to that is no.”
“But what has happened is slowly but surely, with a run of games even with some adversity with players omitted from the group at particular times, others have stepped up, fulfilled their role well, and put themselves in a positive position and we’ve been able to put points on the board regularly,” Smith said.
“I think it just goes to show when the team’s in a good place, they're confident and they're comfortable in each other's company and ability, anything's achievable,” he added
Highlights: Montreal Impact 0, Nashville SC 1
For the Montreal Impact, Tuesday’s loss meant that the club had gone down to defeat for a second straight game against direct opponents for a playoff place. Head coach Thierry Henry was less than pleased with the manner of defeat, describing the play that led to Leal's game-winning goal as the type of “schoolboy error” that continues to cost the team points.
"We talked about it, we saw clips, we saw videos this morning and the day before, and the day before, and they’re still looking at the ball and not looking at the run,” Henry said. “We have to learn. The only thing you can do is to repeat, learn and hopefully one day they will understand but at the minute it’s costing us games.”
Henry highlighted his team’s inability to turn promising positions to meaningful efforts on goal. The Impact’s two shots on target on a total of six shots paled in comparison to Nashville’s six shots on target on a total of 16 attempts.
“At the end of the day, if you want to score you have to shoot,” Henry said. “But we’re finding ourselves in positions where we refuse to cross and shoot.”
The Impact now find themselves in a perilous position, just two points above the playoff line and with the teams below them all having at least one game in hand.
However, Impact players believe they still hold their fate in their own hands and with two games left, Nov. 1 against Orlando City SC and Nov. 8 against DC United, say they're still confident of making the postseason.
“Obviously we know that Orlando is a strong side,” said Samuel Piette. “They’re pretty strong and they will come out strong because they’re having a good season. But I think we can compete with any team and it’s on us to show that passion and desire that we can stay above that red line.”