Leagues Cup Final tonight
Nashville host Inter Miami tonight with a Leagues Cup title on the line. Kickoff is set for 9 pm ET on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.
Union fight for CCC spot
Before Messi and Miami take on Nashville, the Philadelphia Union take on CF Monterrey in the Leagues Cup Third-Place Game. The Union can earn a Concacaf Champions Cup spot with a win. Kickoff is set for 6 pm ET on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.
Matchday 27 cut short by Hurricane Hilary
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We’ve reached the end. Nashville host Inter Miami in the Leagues Cup Final tonight with a trophy, a payday and a spot in the Concacaf Champions Cup Round of 16 on the line. Considering Nashville’s tendency to attract weird over this tournament and considering Inter Miami’s tendency to have the greatest player of all time, the chances this one goes all the way off the rails are extremely high.
While understanding there will probably be about 40 things that happen that no one in their right mind would predict, I figured we could take a brief, Daily Kickoff-style look at a few keys for this game. Even if the main key is actually going to end up being something like “When the 16th round of the penalty shootout arrives, don’t let the small fire that somehow started after the coyote ran onto the field during round 14 distract you.”
Jacob Shaffelburg’s hair (and maybe just Jacob Shaffelburg)
Jacob Shaffelburg used to be a man with short hair. A clean-cut look. That was back in the Toronto days. Back in the days before he realized what it took to be one of the league’s most underrated players. Nowadays, he’s put in the grit and grind to work his way to what you could call false nine of a mullet. A feauxllet, if you will. Business in the front, a well-intentioned and enjoyable gathering of a select group of close friends in the back. It’s changed everything for him.
You shouldn’t be surprised to learn Shaffelburg, who now sports a look reminiscent of the character Tiffany from Adventure Time, has been highly effective this Leagues Cup. He has one goal and five assists so far. Five assists is just one fewer than tournament leader Bebelo Reynoso. And maybe he would have had a couple of more if he hadn’t come off early against Monterrey. But he trained yesterday and should be good to go against the Herons tonight. Even if that’s just as a late-game sub fully prepared to be a total menace in transition against tired legs.
I don’t know if we really talked about it enough, but Inter Miami scored four times on 0.78 xG against Philadelphia. Only one of those goals came from one of the few men to ever consistently outrun their xG over the course of their career. Basically, that’s sustainable for Messi. It’s not for the rest of the Herons. Run it, dread from it, the regression to the mean arrives all the same.
That being said, it’s likely Inter Miami get more shots up against Nashville than the five they put up on Philadelphia in the semifinal. Nashville are content sitting deeper and limiting big chances. They allowed 22 shots to Monterrey and just three ended up on target.
The obvious danger there is, again, one of the like five humans to ever outrun xG is on the opposing side. But it will at least pose a different challenge for Inter Miami. At least, potentially. If the Herons score immediately in this one (they’ve shown a knack for it) then the game state will shift and Nashville may be forced to open things up more than they’d like. At that point, Nashville might be in trouble.
Then again, I don’t want to get it twisted. This isn’t the same Nashville you’ve probably gotten used to. They’ve grown increasingly comfortable on the ball and can tear you apart quickly. Their attack is not just “Screw it, Hany’s down there somewhere” anymore. It will be very curious to see how Gary Smith has his team approach this game.
Can’t teach tall
Sam Surridge is a lanky 6-foot-3. Inter Miami’s tallest center back, Sergii Kryvtsov, is 6-foot-1. All Nashville have to do is just kick the ball to the tall man and have him head it in. Boom. Easy. I solved this one. Give me a cut of the prize money.
And don’t forget, Walker Zimmerman is also tall.
Alba v. Moore
Jordi Alba, unsurprisingly, has been a total nightmare for his opponents when he gets forward. He found the net against Philadelphia and delivered two critical assists against FC Dallas. If Inter Miami are stuck working to break down a low-block tonight, then Alba’s movement and ability to get to the end line and play a cutback might be key. Nashville right back Shaq Moore will need to be at his best.
Panicco! At the Disco
Nashville goalkeeper Elliot Panicco has somewhat quietly been one of the better stories of the tournament? The 2020 SuperDraft pick jumped into the game at the very last moment against FC Cincinnati and Club América and won a couple of huge penalty shootouts. Those performances helped him find his way into a starting role over the last couple of games. He’s faced 1.7 xG and allowed zero goals over those two games. He’ll likely be facing a lot more than that tonight.
If he starts, anyway. They always could go back to Joe Willis. But if this goes to penalties, it’s almost certainly going to be Panicco in goal. He’s helped make a difference there so far.
Run the “Stop Messi” tactic
Foul him! Oh, ok, you can’t catch him when he has the ball, but what if……or..um…well, have you tried…………what if we……..ok, look, it’s really simple, all you have to do is make sure he doesn’t do all of the things he’s been doing for 17 years against the world’s best players, it’s very, very simple.
St. Louis CITY sign homegrown midfielder Pearce: St. Louis CITY SC have signed homegrown midfielder Tyson Pearce. The 16-year-old US youth international will finish 2023 with STL’s MLS NEXT Pro team, then will be under contract with the first team through 2027 with an option in 2028.
Real Salt Lake sign Jamaican international Lambert: Real Salt Lake have acquired Jamaican international Kevon Lambert from USL Championship side Phoenix Rising FC. The 26-year-old defender/midfielder arrives from the second-division club on a deal through the 2025 MLS season.
- Schuyler Redpath has your MLS Fantasy Week 22 positional rankings and gaming advice.
- The Philadelphia Union are chasing a CCC berth in their Leagues Cup closer vs. Monterrey,
- Check out a few Leagues Cup Final predictions from the experts.
- Jonathan Sigal picked out a combined XI for the Leagues Cup Final.
- Here’s what we learned from Leagues Cup 2023.
- Power Rankings.
Good luck out there. Get here however you can.