When you’re playing seven games in the space of just under a month, roster depth becomes a crucial factor. On their run to the Leagues Cup 2023 final, Nashville SC have made full use of their bench, in particular during their semi-final win over CF Monterrey, with both goals coming from substitutes.
The Tennessee outfit, who were going into their match against the Mexican giants as the underdogs, came close to scoring several times in the first half. Notably, the reigning MLS MVP Hany Mukhtar’s curled strike into the top corner, which was ruled out after a VAR check for an offside position.
But they wouldn’t rue those missed chances for long. In the 67th minute, Mukhtar would once again step up and deliver a pass for striker Sam Surridge to sweep home for the opener.
It was the third time in as many games that the English striker found the net off the bench, having recently arrived from the Premier League. He had previously scored a late equalizer against Club América in the round of 16, before putting away the fourth in a 5-0 thrashing of Minnesota United in the quarter-finals.
Having come on after just 16 minutes for the injured Jacob Shaffelburg, it was Haiti international Fafà Picault who then sealed the result in the 96th minute. A determined run down the wing saw the midfielder fend off a tackle before storming into the box, and doubling his team’s lead with an emphatic finish from close range.
Head coach Gary Smith, who has been in charge since the club’s debut in 2018, has been able to manage player fatigue and has timed his substitutions to perfection over the course of the tournament.
The former midfielder will be hoping for a similar impact from his bench players in the final against Inter Miami CF, as the team looks to clinch a first title in franchise history.