Nashville SC Upsets FC Cincinnati In Leagues Cup Penalty Shootout

Photo: Courtesy of Nashville SC

Nashville SC survives and advances to the Leagues Cup Round of 16 after defeating rival FC Cincinnati in a penalty shootout 5-4 at TQL Stadium on Friday (Aug. 4) night.

Goalkeeper Elliott Panicco was the hero of the night blocking one of Cincy’s penalty attempts after head coach Gary Smith made the decision to sub him in for Joe Willis in stoppage time. Despite the overwhelming anxiety due to NSC’s prior penalty shootout performances, they scored all their attempts with veteran Dax McCarty scoring the winning goal.

“We were here three weeks ago and it didn’t go our way,” said Smith in a postgame press conference. “I think it was very difficult. I think we can safely say that the guys have exercised some demons here tonight. We were missing some players. The group that went out onto the field I thought showed incredible character, stuck to the plan. But in the end we got what was an incredibly good win here in a very tough stadium.”

Nashville was able to hold on and keep the game scoreless going into halftime. A few opportunities were made but they couldn’t connect anything. On the positive, they were able to hold Cincinnati’s Brandon Vazquez and and MVP hopeful Luciano Acosta for 45 minutes.

In the second half, there were a few more opportunities but the scoring finally came when Aníbal Godoy scored in the 65th minute off of a goalkeeper deflection after Hany Mukhtar delivered a bullet of a corner kick to find Dax McCarty’s head which was initially saved. 

But in the 85th minute Nashville conceded a penalty which Cincinnati’s Vazquez scored to level the game at 1-1. The Leagues Cup knockout stage goes directly into penalties if the game is tied after regulation.

With the win, NSC avoided losing to Cincy three times this season and will host legendary Liga MX team Club América on Tuesday, Aug. 8 at GEODIS Park in the Leagues Cup Round of 16.

The Boys in Gold hosted Club América in September of 2022 as part of the Leagues Cup Showcase. NSC went on to win 4-2 in a penalty shootout after the game ending in an exhilarating 3-3 draw.

Steven Boero