Nashville SC-Union Preview
Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith understands the size of the task when his side travel to Philadelphia Union in the Eastern Conference semi-final on Sunday.
Nashville fell a goal behind against Orlando City, but responded well to win 3-1 while Philly scored with two minutes remaining against the New York Red Bulls to secure a dramatic extra-time win.
Smith, who has now overseen back-to-back MLS Playoff campaigns, was satisfied with that performance but appreciates the challenge at Subaru Park may be greater.
"Philly's home form is very good," Smith said. "I mentioned tongue-in-cheek on Tuesday night that any other league in the world, it'd be us playing at home but we do understand the rules.
"The fact they're at home will give them an advantage, there's no two ways about it.
"They've proven, not just this year but the last four to five years, their system, style of play and players they've brought through, it makes it extremely difficult to play against."
The winner of the contest will advance to face either the New England Revolution or New York City FC but the hosts' head coach Jim Curtin is not anticipating a high-scoring thriller.
"Little by little we've progressed each year. We haven't done it in a flashy, loud, obnoxious way. We've done our talking on the field," Curtin told a virtual press conference.
"The players deserve all the credit for consistently improving, being a team that punches above our weight a little bit. But we don't fear anybody.
"I don't anticipate a high-scoring game; you have two great defensive teams with special playmakers in attack. I think the chances will be few and far between."
Philadelphia Union - Jakob Glesnes
Jakob Glesnes scored the Union's latest game-winning goal and the latest ever goal scored in an MLS match. He will be hoping to repeat the dose against Nashville.
Nashville SC - Hany Mukhtar
Hany Mukhtar scored the equalizing and go-ahead goals for Nashville on Tuesday, his fifth multi-goal game of the season, the most of any player in MLS in 2021 (including playoffs).
●This will be the third all-time meeting between Philadelphia and Nashville, all this year, with each side winning 1-0 at home during the regular season. Nashville won at Nissan Stadium on July 3 while the Union returned the favor on October 23 at Subaru Park.
●The Union recorded their second postseason victory on Saturday, beating the Red Bulls in extra time. Both of the Union's playoff wins have come at home over the Red Bulls, and both in extra time, losing their other five playoff ties (6 total games) in MLS.
●The Union have won six straight home matches, keeping a clean sheet in the last five, a first in club history (regular season & playoffs). In fact, Philadelphia has allowed just five goals in its last 15 home matches, tying the fewest in any 15-match home span in a single season (including playoffs) in MLS history (Rapids in March-October 2016).
●Nashville SC is back in the Conference Semifinals for the second consecutive season after a 3-1 win over Orlando City on Tuesday, reaching the last eight in 2020 after wins over Inter Miami and Toronto FC. Nashville is the first expansion team in MLS history to advance at least one round in the playoffs in each of their first two seasons.
●Philadelphia has scored just eight goals in its eight playoff games, and only two of those have come from strikers (Sebastian Le Toux in 2011, Cory Burke in 2018). No striker has scored in Philadelphia's last four postseason games.
Updated November 27, 2021