Major League Soccer

Gary Smith promises Nashville SC will use Playoff disappointment to come back stronger

Chris Smith
Nashville missed all four of their penalties in the shootout defeat to the Union.
Nashville missed all four of their penalties in the shootout defeat to the Union. / Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith has promised this won't be the last time his side make a deep run in the Playoffs.

The Tennessee side were dumped out at the Eastern Conference semi-final stage on penalties on Sunday night, missing all four of their attempts to hand the Philadelphia Union a 2-0 win.

It was a somewhat disappointing end to what has been another excellent season for the 2020 expansion side. Nashville finished third in the East in the regular season, level on points with the Union and unbeaten at home. No MLS team lost fewer games (4).

After going 1-0 up in the 38th minute through Hany Mukhtar, Nashville were pegged back in the second minute of first-half stoppage time by Daniel Gazdag and were unable to restore their lead to avoid penalty heartbreak. But Smith is confident his players can use this disappointment to come back stronger.

"Of course I was disappointed as they are – we're all in this together. I would have loved nothing more than to see those players who put the energy and effort into the game that they did sitting here with big smiles on their face," he said after Sunday's match (via MLSsoccer.com).

"But it doesn't always work like that. The only thing we can draw out of this is that there are many, many teams and individuals through the course of history that it hasn't gone for them immediately. There's a lot of good things to draw out of this, but in the pain, it should leave a scar that never heals and you'll just learn and you move on.

"We'll be here again. We'll be in this position again. And my hope is that a lot of these players are around again and we're better off for it. That's the only thing we can work towards."

It would be easy for Smith to portion blame onto the four players who missed in the shootout: Hany Mukhtar, Anibal Godoy, Alex Muyl, and Walker Zimmerman. But it's important to remember they're the reason Nashville even made it this far - especially Mukhtar and Zimmerman. Smith is in no mood to be critical.

"There really is nothing to say [to them]," he said Nashville's penalty takers. "The guys go up there and I said it already: You put Hany at the penalty spot, 99 times out of 100 he'll score. The fatigue, the pressure, taking it first getting us off on a good footing, he's more than capable, we've seen it before. That moment shouldn't blemish what has been an absolutely incredible season, not just for Hany, but for the many, many other players.

"Walker's been like Hercules at the back. He's carrying so much weight on his shoulders, he's a man amongst men. He's been immense for us this year. I'm not going to criticize him for skying his penalty."

As Nashville head home to prepare for the 2022 season, the Union await the winners of Tuesday night's other semi-final between the New England Revolution and New York City FC.

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