Nashville SC pulled off the Round One upset Tuesday night at Rentschler Field, using a Daniel Rios game-winner in the second half of extra time to beat Toronto FC 1-0 and book a spot in the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Rios scored in the 108th minute after the expansion squad mounted pressure, following up a Hany Mukhtar shot that Toronto goalkeeper Quentin Westberg initially stoped. Rios’ shot came into an open net, emphatically helping Nashville bounce the 2019 MLS Cup finalists, who were the No. 2 seed and chased the Supporters' Shield all season.
Before Rios’ tally, Nashville (No. 7 seed) saw three goals called back for players being in an offside position. Designated Player forward Jhonder Cadiz twice thought he gave his team a 1-0 lead, heading home in the 13th and 54th minutes after finding holes in the Toronto defense. Mukhtar’s inch-perfect chip in the 100th minute was also waived off, having evaded Michael Bradley with a midfield run before slipping his shot underneath the crossbar.
If that wasn’t enough, Nashville’s frustrations grew in the second half when Mukhtar (72nd minute) and Alex Muyl (75th minute) both missed close-range headers. Mukhtar skied his effort after Alistair Johnston’s cross from the right, and Muyl couldn’t sneak his header inside the post after Randall Leal picked him out.
The near-misses continued as extra time loomed, with Mukhtar looping a header off the crossbar in the 90th minute and Walker Zimmerman seeing his shot smothered by Westberg in the 91st minute.
Toronto struggled to generate many quality chances, but nearly scored in the 26th minute through Nick DeLeon. The midfielder latched onto a Pablo Piatti cross from the right, only for Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis to stop him on the doorstep. The Reds were outshot 21-10.
- 108' – NSH – Daniel Rios | WATCH
- THE BIG PICTURE: Toronto FC could’ve made it four trips to MLS Cup in the last five years. Instead, head coach Greg Vanney’s team departs the playoffs early, even as key players like Jozy Altidore returned to health. The Reds were outplayed for large chunks, too, and now Nashville will look to keep defying the odds. Just how far can head coach Gary Smith’s team go?
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Last year, Daniel Rios was playing in the USL Championship. Now, he’s scored the biggest goal in Nashville SC history and sent his team through to the next round. What a moment for the second-half substitute, who had four regular-season goals.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Hany Mukhtar was at the heart of most attacking moves for Nashville, finishing with a game-high six shots. He could’ve finished a coupe chances, sure, but will be most remembered for creating the late winner.
- TOR: End of season
- NSH: Sunday, Nov. 29 at Columbus Crew SC (8 pm ET) | Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals