What a Leagues Cup Finals it was. It was drama packed and had everything one would hope for. Truly a pound-for-pound heavyweight fight between Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC. But ultimately Inter Miami was crowned Leagues Cup Champions.
Inter Miami entered this match with great momentum having Lionel Messi as the tournament’s top scorer and as a club having the most goals scored. Nashville SC also came in with great momentum.
A club that sat in second place with the most goals scored during the tournament just behind Inter Miami. Also, a team filled with explosive scoring players such as Hany Mukhtar and lockdown defenders such as Walker Zimmerman.
As the game began it was clear that Nashville SC’s plan was to press Inter Miami’s back line and make it very difficult for them to push the ball upfield. Nashville SC was dynamic and explosive right out of the gate.
Nashville’s resilience and plan seemed to be working being that they were the first team during the entire tournament to deny Inter Miami from scoring within the first 15 minutes of the game. All tournament long, in games that Messi started, Inter Miami CF scored within 15 minutes of each match.
In the 17th minute, Inter Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender make an extraordinary save from a Walker Zimmerman header that was on target. In the 20th minute, Inter Miami’s Robert Taylor responded with a powerful shot from just outside the box that was saved by the Nashville goalkeeper.
However, he failed to recognize a wide-open Lionel Messi just several feet to his right. It would have been the better decision being that Messi would have had a better shot due to Taylor sucking in part of the defense. Additionally, Cremaschi was all alone on the right side of the box. If Messi would have received the ball, he could have taken a shot or sucked in all the central defenders and passed it to an open Cremaschi for an easy shot.
Lionel Messi’s Greatness Gives Inter Miami the Lead
Although Nashville was able to prevent Inter Miami from scoring within the first 15 minutes of the game, just about 8 minutes later Lionel Messi made an impossible goal that reminded the world why he is the greatest of all time.
In the 23rd minute, Inter Miami’s Robert Taylor had a great one-two pass combination with Josef Martinez near the center of the field. Martinez made an over-the-head pass to a sprinting Robert Taylor on the left side of the field. As Taylor approached the 18-yard line he spotted Miami midfielder Benjamin Cremaschi cutting inside the box.
Taylor tried to squeeze it through Nashville’s defenders which was deflected and allowed the ball to roll straight to the feet of an open Lionel Messi. Messi took a touch toward the left side of the box where there were 4 Nashville defenders within several feet of him.
Messi struck the ball with his left foot and placed it in the top left corner of the goal to give Miami the lead. This goal was nothing less than extra-dimensional. Nashville SC defenders did everything right yet it still did not prevent him from making an impossible shot and making it in the back of the net.
The rest of the first half remained the same for Miami and Nashville. Other than the Messi goal, Nashville was by far the superior team and displayed more aggression than Miami. Their explosiveness contained to give Miami problems causing bad passing and giveaways. They also kept threatening by creating a slew of set pieces.
As the second half began in the 49th minute, Miami was able to build a great attack on Nashville’s backline. Robert Taylor passed it to Cremaschi who made a one-touch pass to a running Jordi Alba on the left side of the field. Alba crossed it from near the end line back at an angle toward the center of the box. The pass was made for Lionel Messi who was open near the center of the box.
However, Josef Martinez made a really bad decision and also stayed in the same area. Instead of running toward the goal line which would have forced defenders to stay with him. He stayed and ran toward the pass and took a one-touch shot with two defenders right on him.
After the play was over it was clear to see that Messi was not happy with Josef’s decision. You could see Messi signaling to Josef that he should have kept running toward the goal line. If Josef would have made a better decision, more likely than not Messi would have scored Miami’s second goal.
Nashville’s Persistence Finally Breaks Inter Miami’s Backline
In the 56th minute of the game Nashville, once again, earned another corner. As Nashville was preparing, the game commentator Taylor Twellman stated, “The best-set piece team in Leagues Cup have a great opportunity here to tie the game.”
Seconds later as Hany Mukhtar kicked the corner toward the box, Nashville was able to create enough disruption to where a Nashville player was able to head the ball toward goal. The ball deflected off of Cremaschi’s leg and then Callender’s knee which then passed the goal line and gave Nashville the tying goal.
As the game continued, Nashville continued to pressure Miami and it appeared to be working. Inter Miami looked exhausted and as if they could not keep up with Nashville’s pace. They were holding on to dear life.
In the 76th minute, Nashville was able to create a counter press led by Mukhtar. He was able to pass the ball to his teammate Sam Surridge who had a clear and open shot from the top of the box. Drake Callendar made a great save but the ball was deflected toward an open Mukhtar.
As Mukhtar was about to shoot what looked to be a guaranteed goal, Miami’s Serhiy Kryvtsov made a last-minute slide that deflected the ball away from the goal and past the end line.
Last Second Miss by Leonardo Campana
In the dying seconds of the game, Sergio Busquets finds teammate Leonardo Campana, who was subbed in the 68th minute, up the field with only one defender on him. He made a spectacular long pass which landed near Campana.
Campana’s size and physicality caused the defender to stumble and fall essentially only leaving the goalkeeper to beat. The Nashville goalkeeper came off his line and worked his way toward Campana when he chipped the ball over the goalkeeper in an attempt to score. It was a decent chip that landed near the top of the goal box but began to roll toward the outside post.
A Nashville defender tripped over the extended arm of his goalkeeper leaving Campana all alone to reach the rolling ball and redirect it toward the goal. Campana sprinted and reached the ball by sliding and striking toward the goal only to hit the goal post and past the end line.
Seconds later the referee blew the whistle and it was the end of regulation.
Leonardo Campana 💀💀💀pic.twitter.com/EMyJ6gaTJm— Football Report (@FootballReprt) August 20, 2023
The Drake Callender Show. Blocks Penalty Kick for the Win
Inter Miami CF does not make it to penalties nor do they win in penalties if it were not for ice cold-blooded Drake Callender. If it were not for the dominance and command that this man had in his goalbox, Nashville SC would have been crowned the champions of the Leagues Cup period!
During regulation, Nashville SC had 6 corners and multiple free-kick set pieces. Drake took full command of his box every single time. Unfortunately, Nashville SC was able to sneak one by him during one of the corners but other than that he was brilliant.
He had 5 saves during regulation and ultimately 2 saves during penalties to make Inter Miami Leagues Cup Champions. And let us not forget the powerful penalty shot he made just before blocking Nashville’s goalkeeper during his penalty shot. His performance led to him being the man of the match.
Drake Callender has evolved into such a great player and asset for Inter Miami CF. It is a thing of beauty to watch and we all will continue to encourage his growth and enjoy every second of it.
Lionel Messi Displays His Leadership During Trophy Presentation
Inter Miami CF defeated Nashville SC in penalty kicks 10 to 9 making them the champions of the Leagues Cup.
The Leagues Cup individual awards were won by Drake Callender and Lionel Messi. Callender was awarded the Best Goal Keeper award. Lionel Messi was awarded the Top Scorer (golden boot) award, and Best Player award.
When it came time to present the trophy, Messi showed why he is such a remarkable leader. He took his captain’s armband off and placed it on DeAndre Yedlin’s arm even though DeAndre tried to prevent him from doing so. And then as the League Commissioner attempted to give Messi the trophy he stopped and called Yedlin so that both of them can carry the trophy over to the team and lift it together.
Este equipo pic.twitter.com/cXrFCf2fPc— Inter Miami CF (@InterMiamiCF) August 20, 2023
Inter Miami are Leagues Cup Champions. Congratulations to Inter Miami CF, its fans, and the City of Miami, for a well-deserved championship title and hopefully the first of many to come.
This Leagues Cup was extraordinary. It was amazing for the MLS and Liga MX and for the sport of soccer in the United States. It set the benchmark and set the stage for all future Leagues Cup tournaments.