Nashville SC are set to play in a final for the first time in club history.
When the Coyotes line up across from Inter Miami and Lionel Messi in the Leagues Cup final on Saturday, they’ll do so knowing that they’re just 90 minutes from lifting silverware. It’s a historic moment for a still-new club.
“It’s a big moment for our club,” said Dax McCarty, former club captain and an MLS veteran of 18 years, after their 2-0 win over CF Monterrey. “We’ve made the playoffs every year in our existence. We’ve made a conference semifinal and a [quarterfinal] of the Open Cup where we lost. We’ve been close and we haven’t quite been able to get over that hurdle for one reason or another.”
Nashville are closer than ever to lifting silverware. They’re in mid-jump over the hurdle. But a rejuvenated Inter Miami side is a high, high hurdle. Although they sit dead last in the MLS table, they’ve turned into a juggernaut since Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba debuted in Leagues Cup.
The Herons have won all six Leagues Cup matches since Messi was introduced in the 54th minute of their Leagues Cup opener against Cruz Azul. He scored the winner in stoppage time, an unstoppable free kick to the top corner that made waves around the world.
They haven’t slowed down. Messi leads Leagues Cup with nine goals from six games. Miami lead the competition with 21 goals, including a 4-1 dismantling of the usually staunch Philadelphia Union in the semifinals.
“I think we’ve run out of adjectives to describe what’s going on in Miami,” commended Nashville head coach Gary Smith. “They’re playing such good football, they’re scoring goals, they look a side that are unrecognizable from a month ago. I’ve never in all the time I’ve been in football seen a transformation in a team that we’re currently seeing.”
“What they have been able to accomplish in this tournament with the players that they’ve brought in, namely Messi, we have to respect that,” agreed McCarty. “They’ve been absolutely on fire and for good reason.”
And while it may be tempting to look across the field at Lionel Messi, the greatest player ever to lace up a pair of boots, and think the result is a foregone conclusion, Nashville have built up a huge amount of confidence during their run to the final. Realistically, they’ve had a tougher road, beating Supporters’ Shield leading Cincinnati on the road and taking down two of Liga MX’s gigantes in Club América and Monterrey.
“I can tell you right now that there’s no one in that locker room that’s afraid or scared of the moment, and scared to play this Miami team,” McCarty emphasized.
“We’ll be ready. We’ll attack it with no fear. And we’ll see where the chips fall when the final whistle blows.”