The key to any good cup run is to spread the responsibilities across the team, to avoid putting all of the pressure on any one player. That’s exactly what Nashville SC have managed on their road to the Leagues Cup 2023 final, where they’ll be taking on none other than Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami CF.
Gary Smith’s men have defied the odds across the tournament with some spirited performances to knock out more fancied opponents in the ilk of Club América and CF Monterrey.
Leading the way has been reigning MLS MVP and the current season’s top scorer Hany Mukhtar, who has scored two goals and provided six assists. The German has set up some of the team’s most crucial goals in the tournament - notably, a dramatic late equaliser deep into stoppage time from English striker Sam Surridge against Club América.
Having already set up seven goals during the MLS regular season so far this year, his six assists takes the number ten to an impressive 13 across all competitions. While he may not be reaching Lionel Messi’s all-conquering scoring form (the Argentine is on 9 in 6 games), Mukhtar does have the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner beat when it comes to creative statistics.
But Mukhtar isn’t Nashville SC’s only creative outlet, with 23-year-old Canadian winger Jacob Shaffelburg behind him on three. It’s an impressive output, given he has doubled his tally for the season in the space of a month, as well as chipping in with a goal in the opening game against the Colorado Rapids.
Inter Miami CF will know that shutting down Hany Mukhtar’s influence may not be enough in tonight’s final, with Gary Smith’s men able to pose a threat across the frontline. The hosts will need both of their main creators firing on all cylinders tonight as they look to cause one more upset and lift a first trophy in franchise history.