Inter Miami CF achieved another major milestone for the Club on Saturday night, making history by defeating Nashville SC at GEODIS Park in a dramatic penalty shootout to win the 2023 Leagues Cup title and clinch the First Team’s first official piece of silverware. The match ended 1-1 in regulation and featured a stellar performance in between the sticks from Man of the Match Drake Callender and a stunner from Lionel Messi to open the scoring in the first half.
Individually, two Inter Miami players also enjoyed the historic night in Tennessee, with Messi becoming the player with most trophies in the history of the sport with 44 and collecting Leagues Cup Best Player and Top Scorer awards. Goalkeeper Callender, meanwhile, earned Man of the Match honors for his stellar performance in the final as well as the Leagues Cup Best Goalkeeper award.
Inter Miami took the pitch in the final with an unchanged starting XI from its semifinals win over Philadelphia Union. Callender started in goal; DeAndre Yedlin, Sergii Kryvtsov, Kamal Miller and Jordi Alba formed the back four; Sergio Busquets, Dixon Arroyo, and Benjamin Cremaschi started in midfield; Messi and Robert Taylor started on the wings alongside striker Josef Martínez.
The initial minutes presented an even matchup, with both sides cautious in defense while searching for opportunities in attack. It was close to the 20th minute mark, however, that the game's intensity picked up. First, Callender came up big with a couple of notable interventions in goal to keep Nashville scoreless, in particular denying a Walker Zimmerman header from the center of the box in the 18th minute. Inter Miami then followed suit and previewed what was to come when winger Robert Taylor unleashed a powerful shot from outside of the box to force a diving save from the hosts goalkeeper in the 21st minute.
Subsequently, Inter Miami’s captain once again rose to the occasion. The clock marked the 23rd minute of action when a deflected pass attempt from Taylor found Messi outside the box, where the Argentine attacker took a touch, rounded a defender to find space on the left hand side, and unleashed a left-footed curler to the top left corner to open the scoring and net Inter Miami’s first-ever goal in a final in spectacular fashion. The goal was his Leagues Cup-leading 10th, while Messi has now scored at least once in his seven appearances to date for the Club.
The 0-1 scoreline was unchanged throughout the remaining minutes of the first half to send Miami into the half with the advantage.
The second half saw the hosts level the scoring early on; in the 57th minute forward Fafà Picault scored following a scramble inside the box after a corner kick opportunity for Nashville.
The remaining minutes of the final presented a thrilling back and forth matchup with both sides searching for the winner. Inter Miami came close to reclaiming the team’s lead on several occasions, even hitting the post twice through a Messi grounded shot from outside the box in the 71st minute, and then with an opportunity inside the box from second-half substitute Leonardo Campana in the dying moments of added time.
Defensively, Callender once again denied Nashville with several crucial interventions, including two pivotal saves in added time to send the match into a dramatic penalty shootout.
Ten out of Inter Miami’s eleven takers netted, winning 9-10 in the penalty shootout to clinch the 2023 Leagues Cup title, with Callender culminating his heroic performance on the night by scoring the team’s final kick from the spot and saving Nashville’s last penalty.
The historic final saw Inter Miami win the team’s first official title, extend the longest win streak in Club history to seven and secure a spot directly in the Round of 16 in the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup. Inter Miami secured the first First Team’s first trophy by winning all of its seven consecutive matches en route to the 2023 Leagues Cup title, defeating Cruz Azul, Atlanta United, Orlando City SC, FC Dallas, Charlotte FC, Philadelphia Union and lastly Nashville.
“Today we became champions and the truth is it feels really good. It also helps us continue to grow, to continue maintaining our ambition. I think we have more clarity on what can happen in the future after winning this title just 30-35 days after starting with the Club,” said head coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino.
Inter Miami will now return to the pitch on Wednesday, Aug. 23, when the team will travel to Ohio to take on FC Cincinnati in the semifinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at 7 p.m. ET at TQL Stadium.
NSH - 41.5%
MIA - 58.5%
NSH - 11
MIA - 6
NSH - 1
MIA - 5
NSH - 6
MIA - 2
NSH - 8
MIA - 9