Film Friday: Shutting down Messi

Hello and welcome to another Film Friday, and yes, we are finally back a long break. Today, let’s dive into how Nashville SC became the first team to stop Inter Miami from scoring in the Messi era.

First, let’s look at some background. It has been almost two weeks since Nashville lost to Miami at home in the Leagues Cup final. Nashville was the better team throughout the match, and only lost in the 11th penalty kick.

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Coming to the rematch, Nashville were missing their two DPs Walker Zimmerman and Sam Surridge. This time around, Nashville set up differently from the Leagues Cup final. Gary Smith went to Ft. Lauderdale focused on stopping Messi and friends, and the team surprisingly achieved that.


Let’s start with the defending. In the first half, Nashville SC stayed organized and compact, despite Miami’s continued pressure. Miami ended the half with 72% possession, but zero shots on target. That largely had to do with Nashville’s center-back pairing of Jack Maher and Lukas MacNaughton. Both of the center-backs were able to stop some big chances from the GOAT and others. 


But Nashville’s defensive structure was not just from the back. The midfield played an important part throughout the game to keep Miami at bay. Nashville ended the match with 12 tackles, seven interceptions, and 16 (yes, SIXTEEN!!) clearances. That sort of commitment to defending was a group effort from the Boys in Gold.


Whenever a team decides to play in a defensive style, the attack suffers. The fluidity of Nashville’s attack that we saw in the Leagues Cup was practically non-existent. Not only that, but when you play in that style, the chances are very limited.

To be fair to Nashville, they had a few chances but were not able to finish them. With only 31% possession, it was very hard for the attackers to find any rhythm, and Nashville ended up missing some great chances and being caught offside a few times.

While Nashville’s style wasn’t pretty, it did prove that Messi might be human after all. This performance should give the other teams playing Miami some hope. Messi is definitely inevitable, but maybe a little less inevitable than we imagined.

Author: Valair Shabillamoved to Nashville as a refugee from Iraq at the age of 14. A fan of soccer from a young age, he used soccer to connect with a larger community in Nashville and adapt to life abroad. He's covered Nashville SC since 2019, co-hosting Pharmaceutical Soccer, and analyzing soccer from an audio/video perspective.

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