It’s been an improbable run, but Inter Miami is on the cusp of its first piece of hardware in team history.
Standing in their way is Nashville SC.
The Herons will travel to Tennessee for the championship, but let’s look at what we can expect from this championship matchup.
Let’s get into it.
Scouting Nashville SC in the Championship
Nashville SC currently sits fourth in the Major League Soccer Eastern Conference. Their 38 points put them two points back of third-place Philadelphia — and we all know how Inter Miami dispatched with the Union.
Mukhtar’s 13 goals is tops in league play, but the fact that the next leading goal scorer only has four tells me Nashville leans heavily on Mukhtar and doesn’t have any other reliable offense.
2023 Leagues Cup
Goedis Park, Nashville, Tenn.
Saturday, August 19, 9 p.m. EDT
How to Watch
MLS Season Pass on Apple TV
Nashville SC form (last three)
Inter Miami form (last three)
Nashville’s total goal tally doesn’t rank it in the top four across Major League Soccer.
In Leagues Cup play, Nashville has racked up 15 goals — second most in the tournament behind Inter Miami’s 21.
Nashville had a sticky open to the Leagues Cup tournament, beating Colorado, then losing 4-3 to Toluca before drawing with both FC Cincinnati and Club America — winning both on penalty kicks.
In their second knockout stage match, they hung five on Minnesota, then followed up with a 2-0 win over Monterrey to reach the finals.
In addition to Mukhtar, Nashville will also start leaning on new transfer, Sam Surridge. The 25-year-old England product came to Tennessee from AFC Bournemouth, but he also spent time with Waymouth, Poole Town, Yeovil Town, Oldham Athletic and Swansea City.
He’s already scored three goals and notched one assist in his short stint in Nashville.
Defensively, Nashville has given up 22 goals in league play. They’ve let in eight goals in their six Leagues Cup matches — but four of those were in the loss to Toluca… balanced out by blanking Minnesota in the quarterfinals.
What Inter Miami Needs To Do To Win
This is a very simple one to answer: Score more and shore up the defense.
The Herons have been a juggernaut on offense, leading the tournament with 21 goals — including four goals at Philadelphia in the semifinals and four each at FC Dallas and against Charlotte FC.
Of course, the driving force has been Lionel Messi and his nine goals in the tournament — which leads the Leagues Cup.
What Inter Miami has been able to do in the last few matches is take the pressure off Messi to be the breadwinner on offense. They’ve done this with the help of Robert Taylor, Josef Martinez and a host of others who have stepped up offensively.
But the big concern for Inter Miami is what it’s been throughout the entire tournament… stopping opposing teams.
Thus far, with the exception of Cruz Azul in the first game of the tournament and FC Dallas in the knockout stages, the Herons haven’t really been tested defensively.
This is primarily because Inter Miami has scored first and taken the wind out of their opponent’s sails.
However, a big bright spot for the defense has been the stellar play of goalkeeper .
At times when Inter Miami’s back line has faltered, Callender has been a wall.
In the end, it’s the same game plan for Inter Miami as they had against Philadelphia: Neutralize a potent attack and put pressure on the defense.
Scoring first will go a long way to bringing the Leagues Cup trophy back to South Florida. But, stopping Mukhtar and Co. will go even further.
Just a reminder, Inter Miami already has a spot in the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup by making the finals. A win over Nashville will put them in the round of 16, allowing them to skip the group stage.
A loss still keeps them in the competition, but they will enter the initial group stage rather than get a pass to the knockout.