While all eyes will be on the stars and veterans for Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC during Saturday night’s Leagues Cup 2023 final, the outcome of the match, and the first trophy for either club, could be determined by the play of younger and more unheralded players.
Here are the young players (for the sake of this article, we picked players 23 years old or younger) who could make a difference in the final.
Benjamin Cremaschi (18)
Of all the players on this list, Cremaschi has the most starts and, if he gets another starting nod for the final, will be the youngest player on the pitch. He had been getting regular minutes prior to the arrival of Messi & Friends and despite more competition in the midfield, his minutes played hasn’t really suffered. If he doesn;t get the start, we’ve seen how much of a difference he can make off the bench. Within moments of coming onto the pitch against FC Dallas, he notched his lone goal of the Leagues Cup. With so many attacking players to keep tabs of, don’t be surprised if Cremaschi can sneak through the defense and score to a goal.
David Ruíz (19)
Ruíz hasn’t made the same kind of splash in this tournament the way his fellow U20 teammate has, but the defensive midfielder has been a consistent late-match substitute for Inter Miami (in fact, he’s subbed on for Cremaschi three times). His goal against the Union was a great example of what his fresh legs could bring to Inter Miami if the club needs a goal late in regulation. He understand show to get into the free spaces left by a tiring defense struggling to account for all of Miami’s weapons.
Leonardo Campana (23)
With the arrival of “Tata” Martino, Messi, and others, the 6-1 center forward was going to see his role reduced. But having a tall target who can score isn’t a bad tool to bring off the bench late in matches when you need a goal. With Messi on the pitch, any free kick that is close enough to goal will likely go on target. But having someone like Campana in the mixer for any corners later in a match could prove handy.
Jacob Shaffelburg (23)
Nashville SC’s roster is built by experienced players, which is made clear by Shaffelburg being the youngest field player at 23-years old. He’s played as a center forward and a left winger for Nashville, so depending on what head coach Gary Smith wants to do, he can be plugged into a couple of different spots. Newcomer Sam Surridge has gotten a lot of attention for his goal scoring in this tournament, but Shaffelburg could be due for a big one Saturday.
Jack Maher (23)
Maher was an every-match staple on the backline this season for Nashville until a lower body injury knocked him out of the last two regular season matches ahead of Leagues Cup 2023 and for the first two matches of the tournament. Since then he’s been a late-match defensive substitution for the team. While he’s probably not ready to play a full 90 just yet, if Nashville gets itself into a position to be holding on to a lead late in the match, don’t be surprised to see Maher on the pitch to help fend off the hard charging Miami attack.