Nashville SC Drops League Cup Trophy After Falling In Penalties

Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC

The Boys in Gold are still on the hunt for their first trophy after losing to Inter Miami CF in the Leagues Cup Finals in a wild 11 round penalty shootout at GEODIS Park on Saturday (Aug. 19).

The world’s greatest player Lionel Messi showed up big time for Miami, scoring a screamer of a goal in the 23rd minute, despite Nashville SC’s defense holding off any Miami scoring opportunities for the first 20 minutes. The goal marked his 10th in seven games in the tournament, making him the Leagues Cup’s top scorer and MVP. But even Messi couldn’t help Miami win in regulation as Nashville’s defense continued to shutdown their offense.

Like most of the tournament, Nashville SC’s backline, featuring Walker Zimmerman and Dan Lovitz, were on point, holding Inter Miami to just one goal (which was an unreal strike from Messi), the least Miami has scored this entire tournament. They shutdown Josef Martinez and Robert Taylor, only allowing six shots and two shots on goal. The Boys in Gold also won 44 duels with great work in the midfield from Dax McCarty, Shaq Moore and Alex Muyl.

Fafa Picault celebrating his equalizing goal in the 57th minute. Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC

Nashville would go own to equalize in the 57th minute off of a goal from Fafa Picault, which caused a sold-out GEODIS Park to erupt. Nashville SC’s offense made a ton of pushes in the second half with plenty of offensive chances created by Hany Mukhtar and Sam Surridge. Nashville had 11 total shots and six shots on goal, 11 crosses and six corner kicks. Sadly, they couldn’t capitalize on these opportunities and forced the championship game to go into a penalty shootout.

Nashville SC goalkeeper Elliot Panicco was given the start after starting against Monterrey and Minnesota United. He also proved to be the team’s savior in penalty shootouts against Club América and FC Cincinnati.

Starting off, Messi scored followed by Mukhtar drilling his goal. But it was Randall Leal, who hadn’t played in a few weeks due to injury, whose penalty was blocked. Panicco came up huge by blocking Victor Ulloa‘s shot which would’ve won Miami the game. The shootout would go into the 11th round with both keepers taking shots. But it was Panicco’s shot that was finally blocked, clinching the championship for Inter Miami.

The heartbreaking loss at home adds to the list of missed trophies by professional Nashville teams, but in perspective there not much Nashville should be ashamed of.

Inter Miami’s Leo Messi and Walker Zimmerman. Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC

Nashville SC was coming into this tournament losing six out of seven games and only scoring three goals in that stretch. They were struggling, staying out of the books with players receiving four red cards in six games. They held their own defeating Colorado, staying close against Toluca and then taking out the leagues best Cincinnati in penalties, Liga MX powerhouse Club América in penalties and Monterrey 2-0 in the semifinals. It was an unbelievable run that not only put the club in the international spotlight, but built up a lot of confidence and even momentum heading back into MLS play.

They also played the greatest player of all time, and held him and his team to just one goal and took them into the 11th round of a penalty shootout. Not many teams can claim that.

Now, Nashville SC heads back into MLS play with a visit to Atlanta United this Saturday, Aug. 26. The Boys in Gold are currently sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference Standings with 38 points. They had to reschedule their planned Aug. 20 matchup against New England Revolution, so they are one game behind the rest of the league. The club will face Inter Miami again in Miami on Wednesday, Aug. 30.

Click below to watch Head Coach Gary Smith‘s full postgame press conference.

Steven Boero