NASHVILLE, TN - Nashville SC finished up the regular season with a resounding win, breezing past a young and depleted Atlanta United 2 side to move into first place in the USL Championship Eastern Conference (pending the result of Pittsburgh vs Birmingham on Sunday afternoon).
Head coach Gary Smith was banned from the touchline after being dismissed in last weekend's match, but he and assistant coach Brett Jacobs put out an unchanged lineup to take on an Atlanta side that had been eliminated from playoff contention for weeks and was fielding a lineup that averaged just over 20 years old.
After creating several scoring chances to open the match, captain Forrest Lasso broke the deadlock in the 23rd minute with his first goal in a Nashville shirt, heading Justin Davis's corner kick back across the goal and into the net.
Nine minutes later, Daniel Ríos added a second. Bolu Akinyode played a gorgeous chipped ball over the top for Ríos, who slide and poked the ball home with the outside of his right boot. The Mexican striker got his second of the night in the 39th minute, getting on the end of a long ball from Lasso and beating three defenders before slotting home to the bottom corner.
Nashville continued to dominate possession and chances after the break, bringing on Taylor Washington, Derrick Jones and Cameron Lancaster to shore up the result. With his two goals, Daniel Ríos finishes in second in the USL Championship Golden Boot race, two goal behind Solomon Asante of Phoenix Rising.
The clean sheet secured the Golden Glove for goalkeeper Matt Pickens, who started the season in a rotation with Connor Sparrow, but claimed the starting job outright midway through the season. Nashville's 26 goals conceded are the fewest in the league.
The win sends Nashville into first place, two points ahead of Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Nashville would lock down the top spot if Pittsburgh draw or lose in their match Sunday afternoon against 10th place Birmingham Legion.
Nashville SC will begin their playoff run next Saturday, October 26th at First Tennessee Park. They'll take on the winner of one of the play-in matches midweek.