Nashville SC toppled yet another North America gigante on Tuesday night, defeating C.F. Monterrey by a 2-0 scoreline. With the win, Nashville advanced to their first ever cup final and secured Concacaf Champions Cup soccer for next season.
Beyond the baseline excitement of hosting a final at GEODIS Park, the opponent, Inter Miami, will bring their bevy of stars, including one Lionel Messi, to the Music City.
Nashville arrived here by sticking to their identity and long-held tactical ethos as a club. For stretches, they willingly ceded possession to Monterrey. Yet it was NSC who came away with more shots on goal, higher expected goals, and of course more actual goals tallied on the scoreboard.
Here are my thoughts on the match.
It is no coincidence that…
When the game called for a touch of class to find the breakthrough, Sam Surridge, once again, answered the call for Nashville SC. With three goals in his first three matches, Surridge has wasted zero time by providing an immediate impact on the club.
If it weren’t for Surridge, Nashville is long gone from this tournament. His last-second goal against Club América rescued the Coyotes from the dead. No offense to previous or current NSC strikers, but I’m not sure any one of them combines all of the elements necessary to pull off the same sequence.
Super Sam is everything that Nashville was missing for its three-and-half years in MLS. It’s no coincidence that NSC is headed to its first final within weeks of signing a DP striker who finally provides a reliable goal-scoring threat alongside Hany Mukhtar.
The narrative around the club had always been that the team played great defense and possessed a game-changer in Mukhtar. However, they were missing one key ingredient, a secondary scoring threat to play “Robin” to Mukhtar’s “Batman”. Safe to say they have found their guy.
Nashville SC stands 90 minutes away from its first trophy in club history. Without Sam Surridge, NSC is sitting at home wondering how they will ever take the next step toward championship contention.
The disallowed goal
I am still in a state of disbelief over Hany Mukhtar’s disallowed goal in the 14th minute.
Prior to the second-half VAR decision made in Nashville’s favor on a potential Lukas McNaughton foul, Mukhtar’s disallowed goal seemed to be an all too convenient decision that would have helped deliver the final that LigaMX and MLS officials surely dreamed of when this tournament started a month ago.
Before breaking down the would-be goal, I invite you to brush up on the official IFAB Laws of the Game. Below is Law 11, Section 2 (emphasis added).
A player in an offside position at the moment the ball is played or touched by a team-mate is only penalised on becoming involved in active play by:
- interfering with play by playing or touching a ball passed or touched by a team-mate or
- interfering with an opponent by:
- preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or
- challenging an opponent for the ball or
- clearly attempting to play a ball which is close when this action impacts on an opponent or
making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ballIFAB Law 11, Section 2
Now that we are clear on the laws of the game, let’s review. When the ball leaves Hany Mukhtar’s foot, the only person possibly impending Esteban Andrada’s vision is his own defender.
Next, we see that Andrada has pushed off and begun his dive as he attempts to make a save. Alex Muyl is still not in his line of vision or in any way impacting Andrada.
Based on the dual angles provided below, the ball surpassed Muyl at this moment. He is still not in the field of vision or impacting the goalkeeper. Andrada is reaching the crescendo of his dive with arms beginning to stretch. With the power and curl Mukhtar placed on the shot, there is zero chance of any goalkeeper in the world saving this one.
Taking away Mukhtar’s goal still baffles me. Thankfully, the soccer gods found justice for the home side.
Moment in the sun
In making the Leagues Cup Final, against Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami squad nonetheless, Nashville SC has generated the sort of breakthrough moment that will capture the attention of the city and the state in a way it never has before.
In a lot of the same ways, the Tennessee Titans and Nashville Predators experienced a spike in popularity when they made the Super Bowl and Stanley Cup Finals, respectively. Now, it is Nashville SC’s moment in the sun. Over the next few days, the club, its players, coaches, executives, and even supporters will saturate the airwaves of Nashville media in a way they never have before.
With the enhanced interest, casual sports fans and those who want to jump on the bandwagon of fun will become more invested in a 90-minute match on Saturday than they may have ever been before. No matter the result on Saturday, a certain number of people will be forever converted. With a win, soccer in Nashville could change forever.
The Coyotes have a chance to become the first professional sports franchise in the state of Tennessee history to capture a title. It has been 26 years since the arrival of pro sports to the state. While the Titans came up one agonizing yard short of glory, the trophy cabinet remains bare.
Now, the state has certainly captured sporting glory in other realms. The Tennessee Volunteers’ 1998 college football national title, especially in those days at the dawn of the professional sports era for the state, was widely celebrated across Tennessee. Vanderbilt baseball and Lady Vols basketball have also added trophies of their own. However, none of those have quite the same potential uniting power as professional sports. Collegiate allegiances were probably already set firmly in stone, save for the youngest of viewers. Professional soccer, on the other hand, does not have the same built-in ties. Sure, there may be the rogue Sporting Kansas City fan or Atlanta United holdout in the area. For the vast majority of sports fans in Nashville and beyond, this is the opportunity for them to dive all in for a new team without being dragged down by long held loyalties elsewhere.
Soccer in Nashville has now captured the city and state’s attention. What has grown from a plucky little fanbase of a supporter-owned amateur club will now bask in its moment in the sun and it will change forever because of it.
Wes nailed it here.
As much as I discussed what the Leagues Cup Final means for the growth of Nashville SC’s place among the wider community, it is also a culmination of the decade of growth that has already occurred.
The Final is a celebration for everyone who has already hopped on for this journey. Whether that was as a founding member of the amateur club, an arrival at the start of the USL era (like myself), or someone who went jumped aboard with the move to MLS, it is a culminating event for the community that has been built in just a short amount of time.
I never want to give up the memories of tuning into metro council meetings for a city I don’t live anywhere near. I will never forget that exhilaration of watching Ropapa Mensah bag a last-second winner at First Tennessee Park. Regardless of the final score, I will never not get a smile on my face thinking about walking into Nissan Stadium in that first match in awe of watching the little soccer community grow exponentially right before our eyes.
I’ll carry those memories with me on Saturday. But I am ready for a new memory to be made.