Leagues Cup Preview: Nashville SC vs Minnesota United

In what can only be described as insanity, Nashville SC defeated Club América in penalties to advance to the quarterfinal of the Leagues Cup. Nashville SC will face Minnesota United at home in hopes of clinching a seat in the final four of the competition. Can the Boys in Gold continue their incredible run against the Loons?

Minnesota United

Leagues Cup: 2nd (Central Group 2) | 3 pts | +3 GD
Round of 32: 3-3 win at Columbus Crew (penalties)
Round of 16: 2-2 win vs. Toluca (penalties)
MLS: 10th (West) | 28 points | 7-7-8 | -4 GD |

Injuries / Absences:

Out: Robin Lod (season ending injury), Kervin Arriaga (season ending injury), Ján Greguš (cup tied)
Suspended: Hassani Dotson

Shop MLS Jerseys at MLSStore.com

Minnesota United have had a thrilling run in the Leagues Cup thus far. Similar to Nashville, while no one completely ruled them out, not many predicted they’d still be around. Also similar to Nashville, both of their knockout matches have ended in penalty shootouts. 

The similarities do not stop there, the Loons English manager Adrian Heath, likes to play without the ball as well. They’ve averaged 34.7% possession in their Leagues Cup journey, but that clearly doesn’t seem to affect their quality and results. Adrian Heath is known to play with “purposeful possession,” something he’s been implementing in the north for a while, but it is truly coming to fruition in the Leagues Cup.

These two teams have faced each other three times in MLS play, with two draws and one loss, Nashville have yet to beat Minnesota. Gary Smith was very complimentary about Heath and some Minnesota players. He also noted that being in the Western conference last year may help in the preparation for the match, while acknowledging the changes in both groups.

Minnesota will most likely continue with their 4-2-3-1 formation with the backline sitting in a low block and allowing Nashville to have a bit more of the ball. They’ll focus on transitions and counterattacks led by their number 10 star, Emanuel Reynoso. For Nashville fans who are unfamiliar with Minnesota, Reynoso is their Mukhtar. 

Aside from Reynoso, Nashville defenders will have to deal with Teemu Pukki and Bongokuhle “Bongi” Hlongwane. Many people have heard of the Premier League veteran and former Norwich striker, however, Hlongwane has been the one stealing the headlines lately. With seven goals in four games, he’s tied with Messi for the Leagues Cup golden boot. The South African international has shown flashes of talent since signing for Minnesota in 2022, but he has stepped up his game this season, especially in the Leagues Cup. 

Outside of the attack, Dayne St. Clair is someone to keep an eye on. The Minnesota and Canada goalkeeper has been one of the best in the league since taking over the starting job in 2022. He played a huge part in Minnesota’s last two shootouts, saving two penalties against the Crew and one against Toluca. A known trash talker, the 2022 All-Star will be looking to leave his mark on Nashville and Geodis Park.

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)
MLS: 4th (East) | 38 points | 11-5-8 | +9 GD |

Injuries / Absences:

Out: Nick DePuy (achilles)
Questionable: Jack Maher (lower body)
, Randall Leal (lower body)

Nashville SC will be full of confidence heading into tonight’s match. After defeating the best team in MLS and the biggest team in the continent back to back, the Boys in Gold should be excited to get back on the pitch.

While Randell Leal is still out dealing with an injury, Nashville SC welcomed a new member to the attacking group. Sam Surridge made his debut against Club América netting a goal in the last kick of the game to send it penalties. If that wasn’t enough for him to earn #EveryoneN’s love, he also scored an incredible penalty during the shootout. 

Whether or not Surridge starts against Minnesota is still undetermined. There were moments where more chemistry was clearly needed to combine with the other attackers, especially Hany Mukhtar. However, Gary Smith’s biggest concern will be Surridge’s fitness. Coming from break with no preseason, Surridge has worked hard to be match fit, but that doesn’t always mean he’s able to play 90 minutes. Smith will have to decide if he’d prefer to see Surridge as a starter or a “closer.”

The 4-4-2 diamond/flat hybrid is expected to continue against the Loons. While Nashville is certainly not a possession-dominant team, they have held the ball for long stretches against Cincinnati and Club América. That will continue and increase against Minnesota. The biggest question will be if Nashville are able to convert their possession into dangerous chances.  

It’s very likely that Dax McCarty will return as a starter, Nashville have struggled to create going forward without the 36-year-old. His passing and control of the game are unmatched by any other Nashville player. Anibal Godoy seems to continue to play an important role in the midfield, but he is best utilized as one of the shuttlers/”number 8” rather than the base of the diamond. 

Not many changes are expected defensively, but Jack Maher could return to the starting lineup. Lukas MacNaughton struggled a bit against Club América and conceded an unfortunate penalty. Maher was the starter before his injury and pairs nicely with Walker Zimmerman.

Lastly, all eyes will continue to be on Hany Mukhtar as the 2022 MVP has only one goal in the last 11 matches. Of course, he provided an incredible assist for the Sam Surridge goal, but Mukhtar will be looking to get back into his goal-scoring form.

Pod Picks

Ben Wright

Score: Nashville 2-1 Minnesota
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar, Surridge
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Surridge starts and plays 60 minutes.

Valair Shabilla

Score: Nashville 3-2 Minnesota
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar x2, Surridge
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Another late winner.

Fan Forecast

Match info

Teams: Nashville SC v. Minnesota United
Odds: NSH (-155), MIN (+380) via DraftKings
Date: Friday, August 11
Time: 7:30 pm CDT, GEODIS Park, Nashville, TN
TV: Apple TV
Radio: 104.5 The Zone
Forecast: 78° A few passing clouds. Low 73F. Winds light and variable.

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.

Leave a Reply