Three goals in the first half were more than enough as Nashville SC moved back into first place in the Eastern Conference with a 3-0 win over Atlanta United 2 in the regular season finale at First Tennessee Park on Saturday night.
A headed goal from Forrest Lasso from a corner in the 23’ minute and a brace from Daniel Ríos in the 32’ and 39’ minutes sealed the three points on a cool night in the Music City.
The night shone gold for two Nashville players as Matt Pickens kept a clean sheet, earning the USL Championship’s Golden Glove award as the most effective keeper in the league, and Daniel Ríos scored twice, giving the star forward back-to-back 20-goal seasons. It is the first time any player in USL history has scored 20 goals in a season twice.
In the Eastern Conference standings, Nashville SC jumps back into first place with the three points, passing idle Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. The pressure now jumps to Pittsburgh as a Riverhounds SC loss or draw will clinch the East for Nashville SC.
Here are three takeaways from the victory.
1) Pickens Is Gold
Nashville keeper Matt Pickens capped a stellar 2019 regular season with his 14th clean sheet to lead the USL Championship and in the process won the Golden Glove. The 37-year-old veteran allowed a paltry 16 goals in 25 matches including just five in his last 15 matches of the season. His 0.64 goals against average is the second-best mark in USL Championship history. His 14 clean sheets matches his total from last season and stand the two totals stand as two of the three best clean sheet seasons in league history, falling one short of the best-ever total of 15. There is only one Matt Pickens.
2) Ríos Makes History
Two first half goals from Daniel Ríos gave Nashville’s first MLS signing a second-consecutive 20-goal season, the first time in league history a player has hit the 20-goal mark in two different seasons. Ríos’ brace was the fourth time this season that he has scored multiple goals in a match. He also finishes the year as the Eastern Conference goal leader and just two away from the league’s best total of 22 scored by Solomon Asante of Phoenix Rising FC.
3) Nashville Sets the Total
With 67 points, Nashville SC leads Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC by two points with a match in hand. Pittsburgh can surpass Nashville with a win tomorrow in its final match of the USL Championship season at Birmingham Legion FC. Birmingham clinched a playoff spot tonight, but a win could bump Legion FC into 9th place in the East. Nashville fans will want to tune into the match at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN+ to see if Nashville can win the Eastern Conference title.
Nashville SC gets to stay at home at First Tennessee Park in the Conference Quarterfinals of the USL Championship Playoffs presented by Nissan. It will await its opponent which will be determined in the Play-In Round on Wednesday night. Regardless, Nashville will host at 7 p.m. on Saturday, October 26. Tickets for the playoffs are available here.