Did a Leagues Cup 2023 title contender emerge Friday night at GEODIS Park?
Nashville SC sure looked like potential champions while laying a 5-0 beatdown on 10-man Minnesota United FC to book a semifinal spot – the furthest they’ve gone in any competition during their four-year MLS history.
The dream of lifting a trophy is certainly on the mind of Hany Mukhtar, reigning Landon Donovan MLS MVP and Golden Boot presented by Audi winner who once again led the way for the Coyotes with a one-goal, three-assist performance.
“If you’re in the semifinal, if you don’t start to think about silverware, there’s something wrong,” the 28-year-old talisman said post-match.
“… If you’re in the semifinal, you wanna win all of them. Otherwise, I always say, in all cup competitions if you make it to the semis or quarterfinal, you should better win it all.”
While Nashville were ruthless Friday night, the Loons did themselves little favors. Specifically, defender DJ Taylor saw a straight red card from referee Juan Calderón in the 34th minute for a DOGSO on Jacob Shaffelburg.
“Of course the red card played a big role, but in the end, with one man up you have to play like we did,” Mukhtar stated. “… We shouldn’t take this lightly. It was a great performance for the team.”
Up next, Nashville will host Liga MX powerhouse side Monterrey on Tuesday, Aug. 15. That will represent their third match against a Mexican team this tournament after losing to Toluca in the group stage and beating Club América in the Round of 16.
Nashville, like other semifinalists, are just one win away from clinching a 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup spot. The competition's top three finishers progress to that stage.
“When you’re in a one-off game in a cup competition, strange things happen,” head coach Gary Smith said, confident that his team can ride this run all the way to the winner’s podium on Aug. 19.
“…The opportunity that the guys have, and the guys have created. Give them the opportunity now to, you know, really make a bit of a statement,” Smith stated. “Semifinals are always difficult games, but, you know what, it’s great to be in it.
“We have a wonderful opportunity.”