Leagues Cup Recap: Nashville Crushes 10 Man Minnesota Side, Sends Loons Spiralling Out of Leagues Cup

MNUFC Starting XI at Nashville SC on Friday, August 11, 2023. (Photo courtesy MNUFC)

On a hot and humid Friday night in Music City, Minnesota United were mauled by the hosts Nashville SC and sent tumbling out of the Leagues Cup. A 34′ red card put the Loons down a man and the match subsequently turned entirely in the favour of Nashville. As 5 goals followed in just 25 minutes of play, only split by half-time, sending the hosts to the Leagues Cup Semi-Finals and Minnesota out of the tournament.

Coming off two straight shootout wins and having scored 11 goals in the previous four matches, Adrian Heath retained most of his Starting XI. Making just one change with Ethan Bristow replacing Hassani Dotson, who is out due to a red card against Toluca. With that change, Heath moved Joseph Rosales up to play defensive mid alongside Will Trapp, while Bristow slotted in at left back.

The Loons once again came out red hot and firing on all cylinders with a dangerous counterattack. Inside the opening two minutes, Joseph Rosales took the first shot of the evening, missing just wide of goal. While Nashville held possession early, and would throughout the night, Minnesota managed four shots in the opening 26 minutes to Nashville’s two. Adrian Heath’s side, always content to allow the opposition to hold possession and play on the counter, appeared to have the match under control before the 34th minute red card.

DJ Taylor fouled a charging Jacob Shaffelburg right as he reached the penalty area following an open breakout . After a quick VAR review Taylor was issued a red card for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity (DOGSO) and Nashville was given a free kick right outside the penalty area. Franco Fragapane was immediately subbed off for Zarek Valentin to keep four at the back in an attempt to hold out for the final near 60 minutes. Unfortunately for Minnesota the wheels had fallen off and just five minutes after the red card, Shaq Moore struck home for Nashville with their first goal of the night.

“I don’t think they [Nashville SC] had to work hard enough for their goals and that wasn’t down to 10 men,” said Adrian Heath. “That was just poor defending, poor marking, poor desire to stop the ball going in the back of the net. As I’ve just said to the players, I can’t excuse that.”

Right before the half Nashville doubled the lead after Teal Bunbury scored on a goal, that was once again assisted by Hany Mukhtar.

Down 2-0 after the first half and down a man, Minnesota needed to start the second half as they did the first if the Loons had a chance at getting back into the match. Nashville entered the second half with the same pace and gusto they ended the first half on and within a 15 minutes the Loons found themselves down 5-0. After a series of corners and throw-ins for Nashville, the Boys in Gold got their third of the night. Hany Mukhtar found himself open on the wing and delivered a floating cross into the box that a waiting Alex Muyl easily headed in. Three minutes following Muyl’s goal, Jacob Shaffelburg slipped a ball between multiple defenders connecting with Sam Surridge who one touched the ball into goal from the top of the six yard box.

In the 59′ after three assists, Hany Mukhtar finally put a tally of his own on the scoresheet. After a short corner, Mukhtar bobbed and weaved his way through the Minnesota defence, ultimately finishing with a top shelf goal into the far corner.

Not much of consequence happened in the final thirty minutes of play as both sides ran down the 5-0 match. Adrian Heath made a three piece change in the 64′ with García, Iwe, and Sang Bin entering the match replacing Pukki, Hlongwane, and Reynoso respectively. Minnesota’s final change came in the 79th minute with Bakaye Dibassy replacing Will Trapp.

The loss sends Minnesota out of the Leagues Cup, ends their first taste of continental competition, and moves their focus to the final third of the Major League Soccer calendar. “I’ve got a lot of optimism for them in the next 14 games of the year,” Heath stated. “When we put our best team on the field, I think we can be more than a match for anybody. We’ve proved we can play. We’ve got game changers. So there have been a lot of bright spots.”

Minnesota will resume league play on August 20th when the Loons travel to Queens, NY to face New York City FC at Citi Field. The match is being played at the home of MLB’s New York Mets rather than NYCFC’s usual home of Yankee Stadium due to the New York Yankees series with the Boston Red Sox that weekend. Kickoff is set for 7:30pm CT with the match airing on Apple TV’s MLS Season Pass.