This Saturday, Nashville SC will be looking to clinch the first title in the club’s history in the Leagues Cup 2023 final. Although they’ll be facing none other than Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami, they should never be counted out, even if they go behind early on. In fact, 73% of their goals have come in the second half. Here’s a look at how Gary Smith’s men have been able to spring some late surprises.
The MLS side seem to have a tactic: they save their goals for the second half of matches. Of the 15 goals they have scored in six matches in this summer’s tournament, nine have come in the second half. Two of them were even scored in stoppage time.
Their knack for late goals was on display from the very first game of Leagues Cup 2023, in the 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids. The two goals came in the second half - Hany Mukhtar on 57 minutes, and then Jacob Shaffelburg less than ten minutes later. Although they fell to a 4-3 defeat to Toluca FC in the second match, they were back to winning ways in the knockout stages.
In the round of 32, Nashville SC's only goal came in the 64th minute, when Aníbal Godoy scored in a 1-1 draw against FC Cincinnati. A dramatic 2-2 draw against Club America saw goals from Walker Zimmerman in the 61st minute and a leveler from new arrival Sam Surridge at the death.
In the 5-0 thrashing of Minnesota United FC, the goals were spread out across the game. Two came in the first half - Shaquell Moore opened the scoring on 39 minutes, before Teal Bunbury, doubled the lead before half-time. Three more came in the second half, from Alex Muyl (50), Sam Surridge (53) and Hany Mukhtar (59).
In the semi-final, the Tennessee team won 2-0 against CF Monterrey, and the trend continued: Sam Surridge would score on 67 minutes, before Fafà Picault sealed the result in stoppage time with an emphatic strike.
Gary Smith could opt for the same approach on Saturday - keeping a clean sheet throughout and striking in the second half to seal the win. They will have had some ups and downs on their run to the final, but their tactics have proven effective so far. Can they make it work in the Leagues Cup final against an all-conquering Inter Miami CF team?