On their way to the Leagues Cup 2023 final, Nashville SC have found the net 15 times. Although that’s six fewer than Inter Miami CF, their rivals on Saturday night at GEODIS Park, Gary Smith’s men have shown throughout the tournament that they can score from a range of plays.
A breakdown of the Tennessee outfit’s strikes this summer shows that their goals have come from different positions than their MLS Eastern Conference rivals. For starters, all of them have come from inside the box, compared to 71% for Inter Miami CF - thanks to Lionel Messi’s four long-range efforts.
Nashville SC came agonizingly close to scoring their first goal from outside of the box in the competition during the first half of the semi-final against CF Monterrey - but Hany Mukhtar’s curled strike into the top corner was ruled out after a VAR check for offside.
The German attacking midfielder, who is the reigning MLS MVP and the current season’s top scorer, has nevertheless managed to find the net twice during the tournament. His latest came in a 5-0 thrashing of the Philadelphia Union, as he finished off a training ground move from a corner with an emphatic finish into the roof of the net.
While Inter Miami CF’s goals are almost evenly split between left-footers and right-footers - helped by Messi’s nine-goal haul - the balance looks different for Nashville SC. Gary Smith’s men have only scored two left-footed goals, both coming from Haiti international Fafà Picault. His driving run and close-range finish in stoppage time sealed the semi-final victory over CF Monterrey earlier in the week:
One source of hope for the hosts ahead of the final will be that they have the aerial advantage over their opponents. While the Florida outfit are yet to score from a header during the tournament, Nashville SC have done so three times.
Two have come from US international defender Walker Zimmerman, while new arrival Sam Surridge made it a debut to remember by scoring an equalizer against Club América deep into stoppage time in the round of 16. The English striker has gone on to score another two goals during the competition, both with his right foot.
An analysis of the ways in which both Nashville SC and Inter Miami CF have scored their goals at Leagues Cup shows that this Saturday’s final will be a clash of contrasting styles. Can the hosts spring another surprise as the underdog and upset Lionel Messi and company?