Inter Miami CF accomplished one more significant achievement for the Club on Saturday night, leaving a mark on the world by beating Nashville SC at GEODIS Park in a sensational penalty shootout to come out on top for the 2023 League Cup championship and secure the First Team’s first official piece of silverware.
The match finished 1-1 in regulation time and highlighted an incredible performance from Man of the Match Drake Callender and a shocker from Lionel Messi to open the scoring in the first half.
Lionel Messi scored from the get-go in regulation and changed over the first shot in extra time as Inter Miami CF beat Nashville SC 10-9 on penalties in the League Cup final on Saturday night.
Messi scored for the tenth time in seven games since joining Inter Miami – – all in the League Cup competition, changing over in the 23rd minute.
The ball arrived at Messi’s feet after a pass from teammate Robert Taylor was impeded. Messi spilled past Nashville defender Walker Zimmerman and released a bowing shot from just outside the penalty area to the upper left corner of the goal. Goalkeeper Elliot Panicco got no opportunity at saving the ball.
Messi wasn’t especially persuasive before he scored the goal, and the team gave him boos each time he was on the ball. However, the stadium got ‘wild’ in cheers when the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, who led Argentina to the World Cup trophy last year, scored.
Nashville tied the game in the 56th minute when Fafa Picault’s header off a corner deflected from Miami’s Benjamin Cremaschi and into the net off goalkeeper Drake Callender.
Messi had a shot from the area he had scored from before in the 71st minute, but he hit the post as the teams played to a 1-1 after regulations.
Miami striker Leonardo Campana got an opportunity to win the match in the last play, but his sliding shot on an open goal hit the post. Messi grasped his head when the ball streamed out of play.
Messi smoothly changed over the first shot in quite a while, and it was Callender who scored the go on Penalty Kick and made a title-securing stop.
Ten out of Inter Miami’s eleven takers scored, winning 9-10 in the penalty shootout to secure the 2023 League Cup title, with Callender finishing his courageous performance on the night by scoring the team’s last kick from the spot and saving Nashville’s last penalty.
“It’s a huge honor to play a role in our first win in a final,” Callender said. “It’s pretty surreal. Very emotional. This team works so hard day-in, day-out to be able to perform like this on a night like this. And to have it come down to the very end, it was amazing to see the grit, just the belief of what we’re capable of. It’s something special and I’m just blessed to be a part of it.”
Callender said he tried to stay as calm as possible through the 11 rounds of penalties.
“I just had to stay focused, breathe through it, stay as calm as possible,” he said. “I mean, this atmosphere here tonight is electric. So I embraced the moment and I just believed in the work that I put in and the repetitions I put in leading up to that moment, and it just ended up going our way.”
“I have to say from where I sat, I felt as though we were able to put ourselves in a position in the end where we might have stolen it,” Nashville boss Gary Smith said after the match. “I thought we were slightly the better side. You’re looking at, again, the greatest player on the planet possibly being the difference in what went on today.
“But if you look across the tournament and, and what this Miami side has been able to do to other teams, confidence they’re playing with, [I’m] incredibly proud of what the guys have produced. And of course, to come back and get ourselves on level terms and really look to try and win the game as well in, in what was a very, very good final.”
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, in the mean time, won the Man of the Match for his courageous performance in the final as well as the League Cup Best Goalkeeper award.
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.