Nashville SC can reach their first-ever major final Tuesday night when they host an extremely talented CF Monterrey squad in the Leagues Cup semifinals.
Nashville romped to a 5-0 win past 10-man Minnesota United in Friday's home quarterfinal, scoring all of its goals after the 34th-minute dismissal of D.J. Taylor.
MLS Golden Boot leader Hany Mukhtar scored once and assisted three times in Nashville's fourth home game of the tournament, which is being contested between all 47 teams in MLS and Liga MX, with all games played in the United States and Canada.
But as Mukhtar noted, Nashville's numerical advantage for nearly two-thirds of the match did not automatically mean victory.
"Even with one man up, you have to play like we did," Mukhtar said. "In practice, we have a lot of drills where you are one man up and you cannot even create a chance. So we shouldn't take that lightly. It was a great performance for the team, and hopefully it will give us a big lift for the semifinals."
Nashville has qualified for the MLS Cup playoffs in each of its first three seasons in the league and is on pace to do so again. But this is the first time manager Gary Smith and his team have been beyond the quarterfinals of any knockout competition.
By contrast, Monterrey has arguably the best recent pedigree on the continent. Rayados have won the Mexican league twice since 2010 and more impressively are the five-time champions of CONCACAF in that stretch, most recently winning the CONCACAF Champions League in 2021.
They also are the lone Liga MX representative remaining in this tournament. And they reached the semifinals by rallying late from two goals down in a 3-2 win over defending MLS Cup and Supporters Shield winners Los Angeles FC.
Rayados also have overcome the absence of striker German Berterame, who scored five goals in two group-stage games but then came away with a foot fracture in a 1-0 win over Portland in the first knockout round.
Oddsmakers have Nashville as a slight underdog at sites like DraftKings, despite playing at home.
"Semifinals are always difficult games," Smith said on Friday, before he knew his team's opponent. "But you know what, it's great to be in it. We have a wonderful opportunity, we're in good form, we're confident."
—Field Level Media