Three thoughts as Nashville SC advances past Club América in a match for the ages

Nashville SC rose from the dead, twice, on Tuesday night in a chaotic, unexplainable, and downright looney match against Liga MX giants Club América

Here are my three thoughts on the match.

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Seven minutes

We now know how long it takes for a team to be raised from the dead – seven minutes. 

On two separate occasions, Nashville SC appeared left for dead only to be resurrected seven minutes later. I am unsure where this figure shows up on the stat sheet, but it deserves a place on it to capture the essence of the Coyotes’ improbable victory.

The first resurrection came during regular time. In the 92nd minute, Honduran referee Selvin Brown awarded a penalty kick to Club América following a Lukas McNaughton handball in the box. Julián Quiñones buried the penalty kick and sent the América supporters into a frenzy. At that moment, Nashville appeared left for dead ready to reflect on a night where they permitted far too many chances in the final third to the visitors. 

Seven minutes after Brown pointed to the spot, Nashville’s new man, Sam Surridge, stormed to the rescue. A lung-busting run into the box capped off with a headed goal revived the Nashville faithful and sent the game into penalty kicks.  

The second resurrection will go down as one for the ages. Seven minutes elapsed between Luis Malagón’s save of Jack Maher’s penalty kick and the retake that revived Nashville’s hopes of advancing. 

That seven minutes certainly felt like a lot longer. I cannot blame anyone who left. Maybe it’s the soccer gods punishing me for my bonus thought from last week, but I admittedly left that match immediately after the Malagón’s save. After all, I had a 2.5-hour drive home ahead. I made it to my car only to see my phone blowing up with notifications of the VAR review. Luckily, I flipped on AppleTV, caught the remaining penalty kicks, and unleashed a barrage of car horn beeps as Daniel Lovitz put away the winner.

Honestly, I am not sure what I can even compare it to. 

I cannot recall a single soccer match finish in such a manner. The game was over, or so we thought. 

I have to travel to another sport to find a comparison. In 2007, my beloved Cleveland Browns improbably won after the Baltimore Ravens had already celebrated on the field and returned to the locker room. A field goal kick bounced off the crossbar and back into the endzone. The Browns had lost……or so we thought. After several minutes of review, it was determined that the ball had actually hit on the joint beyond the crossbar. The Browns tied the game and players were brought back onto the field for overtime which the Browns won. 

That I have to resort to a cross-sport comparison demonstrates just how rare such an ending is to a soccer game. Nashville had lost until they had not.  

It took seven minutes to go from the deepest despair to exorbitant exhilaration.

Exactly what was envisioned

For as much as Leagues Cup has been maligned prior to its start, the Tuesday night thriller contained every bit of chaotic magic that MLS and LigaMX officials surely envisioned since drawing up and announcing this tournament a year ago. 

The match hit all the metrics. 

An announced crowd of over 24,000 spectators, despite the largely inflated ticket prices, created an unforgettable atmosphere. Honestly, Tuesday night was the most electrically charged crowd that GEODIS Park has ever hosted. Leagues Cup may not matter to all, but that match certainly mattered to those in attendance. Each goal brought an explosion of emotion. This can no longer be mistaken as a competition of overhyped friendlies.

A pair of goals to each side, a last-second tying goal, and penalty kicks provided drama throughout the final hour. No viewer on AppleTV or UniMás would have been able to look away.

Lastly, the chaotic closing moments where América celebrated a win only for VAR to disallow the save and Nashville to grasp victory generated a social-media firestorm that drew eyeballs from across the globe. 

Not every Leagues Cup game has or will match this wild and crazy Nashville – Club América affair. However, it provides the perfect showcase of why this tournament matters and will continue on in future years in one form or another.

Clearing the hurdle for success but another ahead

After advancing to the quarterfinals via an unforgettable win over the most-storied club in North America, Nashville SC can officially mark their 2023 Leagues Cup campaign as a success. 

The most likely scenario always was for the Boys in Gold to advance out of the group stage and fall at home to one of Mexico’s Gigantes. They have now progressed beyond those expectations. 

Nashville supporters should feel a bit disappointed that the club was unable to win its group. Howeve, any such feelings have been quickly erased by a penalty shootout win against the club’s biggest rivals, F.C. Cincinnati followed up with an instant classic against Club América. 

That combined performance clears the pre-tournament markers for success.

Now, the question becomes whether Nashville can take the next step. On the table in front of them is a winnable home game against Minnesota United. Victory would send the Coyotes through to a semifinal against either LAFC or Monterrey. 

For all the national media talk about Nashville possessing the ingredients to be a dangerous team in a playoff format, the Coyotes have yet to advance to a semifinal in their history. 

In the past four seasons, the Coyotes advanced to the quarterfinals in at least one competition. 

  • 2019 USL Playoffs
  • 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs
  • 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs
  • 2022 U.S. Open Cup
  • 2023 Leagues Cup*

As Nashville ages past its plucky expansion side era, this team needs to start advancing further and seriously challenge for titles. A win on Friday over Minnesota will see the club take the next step toward establishing championship bona fides.

Bonus thought

In just thirty minutes of action, Sam Surridge delivered in a bigger moment than any of Nashville’s Designated Player no. 9’s have before him.

Sure, Jhonder Cádiz had his memorable goal against Orlando City in the 2021 playoffs. However, that Jhonder goal merely provided the icing on the cake for Nashville’s 3-1 win. Whereas Surridge managed to rescue Nashville SC, on his debut, with a last-second game-tying goal and followed it up with a cheeky panenka in the shootout. 

Broadway Sports will have more on Surridge’s dazzling debut later in the week.

Author: Chris IveyChris is a senior writer covering Nashville SC. His writings focus on the team at large and often navigate the complexity of roster building around the myriad of MLS rules. Outside of Broadway Sports Media, Chris resides in Knoxville and is a licensed attorney. Beyond NSC, he is always willing to discuss Tennessee football and basketball, Coventry City, and USMNT. Follow Chris on Twitter

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