Leagues Cup Preview: CF Monterrey vs Nashville SC

Nashville SC continue their impressive run in the Leagues Cup after thrashing Minnesota United 5-0. The Boys in Gold next challenge is the Mexican club, Monterrey, one of the most dominant teams in Concacaf over the last 10 years.

With the winner going to the final (potentially against Messi and co), this is setting up to be one of the best games of the tournament, and arguably the biggest in Nashville’s history. Can Nashville knock down another Mexican giant and book a spot in the climactic finale of the Leagues Cup?

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Monterrey

Leagues Cup: 1st (West Group 2) | 6 pts | +5 GD
Round of 32: 1-0 win at Portland Timbers
Round of 16: 1-0 win vs. Tigres
Quarterfinal: 3-2 win at Los Angeles FC

Injuries / Absences:

Questionable
Out: Germán Berterame
Suspended

While Monterrey are not a traditional Mexican powerhouse or part of the “grandes,” they are still one of the most successful clubs in the continent. They have won five league titles, three cups and five CONCACAF Champions Leagues.

Los Reyados (The Striped-Ones) have an impressive record in continental competitions, and the Leagues Cup doesn’t seem to be any different. Even though the results might not be the most impressive since the group stage, they always find a way to win. Their run to the semifinal included a win against their biggest rival, Tigres, as well as the 2022 MLS Champions, LAFC. 

As the only Liga MX team left in the competition, and one of the most expensive rosters in the continent, Monterrey will come to GEODIS Park with a point to prove. 

Their style of baiting opponents into possession and striking at the right moment has been a common feature in their wins. They’ve had to tweak that a bit in their last two matches as they controlled most of the ball against Tigres and LAFC. Their confidence and experience allows them to play to the opponents weakness and get the best results.

Monterrey are used to playing a traditional 4-4-2, but since the injury to Germán Berterame after the Timbers match, they have switched to a shape closer to a 4-2-3-1. Berterame played an important part in the group stage scoring five goals in two games, but he suffered a foot fracture after playing 90 minutes in Portland in the round of 32. 

Perhaps the most notable addition to the Monterrey side has been midfielder Sergio Canales. The Spanish international made his debut in the Leagues Cup and has two goals in two games, albeit both coming from penalty kicks. The former Real Socidad and Real Betis midfielder is playing a bit further up the pitch for Monterrey. Canales occupies the number 10 position and at times he’s even more advanced, playing as a second striker. 

While the Mexican side will certainly miss Berterame’s production, his striker partner Rogelio Funes Mori, is available and just as dangerous. A Mexican internationa, Funes Mori scored the winning goal in the dying moments against LAFC to bring Monterrey to Nashville. The FC Dallas academy product will be looking forward to getting back on the field and playing with Canales again. It’s the classic “reverse Hany Mukhtar/Sam Surridge” situation, if you would. 

Monterrey have also excelled defensively allowing only four goals in five Leagues Cup matches. With only a couple of changes throughout the tournament, their backline has been the same for the most part. The stability at the back combined with their deadly attack, make them one of the toughest teams to play against.

Nashville SC

Leagues Cup: 2nd (Central Group 4) | 3 pts | 0 GD
Round of 32: 1-1 win at FC Cincinnati (penalties)
Round of 16: 2-2 win vs. Club América (penalties)
Quarterfinal: 5-0 win vs. Minnesota United

Injuries / Absences:

Out: Nick DePuy (achilles)
Questionable: Randall Leal (ankle)

Nashville SC are enjoying the Leagues Cup. This tournament has effectively reenergized the team and pulled them out of spiraling even further into bad form. The Boys in Gold have achieved some impressive results, scoring 13 goals in five matches and winning twice in penalties. 

One of the biggest positives of Leagues Cup has been integrating star designated player, Sam Surridge, into the squad. His two cameos off the bench have both resulted in goals, one of which tied the game in the last kick.

Surrdige’s match sharpness is still up in the air, playing all 90 minutes might not be realistic for a player coming back from holidays with no preseason. Gary Smith has a tough decision to make, rewarding a star striker with a start might be the right move, but is that worth it if it means he won’t be there for the end of the match? Regardless of the decision, Surridge seems to be up for the challenge whenever called upon.

Another huge positive for the Leagues Cup is allowing Hany Mukhtar to play himself back into form. The 2022 MVP had an incredible night against Minnesota assisting three goals and scoring one of his own. After a rather quiet 11 game stretch, Mukhtar needed a good match to remind everyone that he is still one of the best players in North America.

The 4-4-2 diamond/flat hybrid will most likely continue against Monterrey. Nashville have been more comfortable with the ball and possessing more of it. They even started playing from the back more often in the last two games. They will have to be careful with the ball against a Monterrey side that is known for their effective pressing. This might push Nashville to allow the Mexican side more of the ball and focus on transitions. 

Dax McCarty exited the game against Minnesota in the 61st minute, that almost guarantees that he’ll be starting against Monterrey. The 36-year-old is enjoying his best season with Nashville so far playing as a deep playmaker. 

Alex Muyl has been a constant fixture for Nashville this season and he’s expected to start as well. He offers the flexibility of playing as a central midfielder, and switching to the right when needed. Even though Brian Anunga performed well against Minnesota, Aníbal Godoy will probably start on the left side of midfield. The Panamanian captain plays an important part in Nashville’s setup both defensively and going forward. 

Jacob Shaffelburg has been instrumental to Nashville’s success. The record only shows  one assist against Minnesota, but he played a huge part in two other goals. He links up well with Mukhtar and once those two build some more chemistry with Surridge, they’ll be a deadly force.

Pod Picks

Chris Ivey

Score: Nashville 1-2 Monterrey
Scorers: Sam Surridge
MOTM: Sam Surridge
Bold Prediction: Surridge makes it three straight in his first start. Match plays out similar to the CA contest but Nashville can’t find the heroic goal in the dying seconds.

Ben Wright

Score: Nashville 1-3 Monterrey
Scorers: Sam Surridge
MOTM: Sam Surridge
Bold Prediction: Nashville open the scoring but concede three in the second half.

Valair Shabilla

Score: Nashville 2-1 Monterrey
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar, MacNaughton
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville score a late winner from a counter attack.

Fan Forecast

Match info

Teams: Nashville SC v. C.F. Monterrey
Odds: NSH (+170), MTY (+150) via DraftKings
Date: Tuesday, August 15
Time: 8:30 pm CDT, GEODIS Park, Nashville, TN
TV: Apple TV
Radio: 104.5 The Zone
Forecast: 80° Partly to mostly cloudy. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. High 91F. Winds WSW at 10 to 15 mph. Humidity73%.

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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