The story of Nashville in Leagues Cup 2023 has been one of a team that has grown into the tournament in the latter stages. Whilst the form of the side hailing from the Music City was good in the group stages, it is the elimination phase where the MLS side’s form and performances exploded into life, propelling them to a historic final against Inter Miami which will be played in several days time on home territory at GEODIS Park.
Last season’s MLS Most Valued Player Hany Mukhtar was highlighted as a key potential player for Nashville coming into the tournament, and the German 28-year-old has not disappointed. He has scored twice in this competition, but has been Nashville’s prime assist-maker, registering six assists in the six matches that he has played in Leagues Cup 2023. Whilst the German is the obvious player to look for during the final, let’s take a look at which players have also been key in the road to the Leagues Cup trophy.
Walker Zimmerman - Captain Fantastic
If any performer is underrated in this Nashville side, it would be centre-back, captain, and leader, Walker Zimmerman. His performances during Leagues Cup have been vital in helping the MLS side progress through the tournament. Having featured in all of Nashville’s games so far, Zimmerman lived up to his status as a designated player and participant in the 2023 MLS All-Star. The 30-year-old USMNT international has seen two shutouts in the last two vital knockout games in the quarter final against Minnesota United and Monterrery. Not only has he offered experience and leadership at the back, he has also scored twice during the tournament. His first came in the group stage in a whirlwind of a game against Toluca, and the second to go ahead in the round of 16 against Club América.
Sam Surridge - Premier League class shines in Leagues Cup knockouts
The Englishman had to wait until the knockout stages to make his debut for Nashville, but it was worth the wait following his transfer from Premier League side Nottingham Forest. Sam Surridge who has scored in each of his first three matches for his new MLS club after joining from Premier League side Nottingham Forest. The Englishman is a late bloomer in this competition, with his debut appearing in the round of 16 stage of the tournament against América. His vital headed goal in the 98th minute could be seen as the most vital moment in the tournament.
The 26-year-old American goalkeeper has bounced back in spectacular fashion from a tough group stage outing against Toluca FC, in which he conceded four goals. He was brought on by head coach Gary Smith when the Round of 16 tie against FC Cincinnati went to penalties, and Panicco went on to save Matt Miazga's spot-kick to help his team claim the win.
The 6ft5, rugby-helmeted shot-stopper was brought on again for the penalty shoot-out win against Club América, and then started in the team's next two fixtures - keeping a clean sheet in both. Facing Lionel Messi, though, is another task entirely - can he step up again?
Nashville SC will face Inter Miami on Saturday August 19th in the final of Leagues Cup 2023, at GEODIS Park, Nashville, Tennessee. The much-anticipated conclusion of the tournament will take place at 21:12pm ET.