What you need to know as Inter Miami hosts Nashville in U.S. Open Cup Round of 16

Inter Miami has a chance to avenge last week’s road loss to Nashville SC as the teams meet again Tuesday for the second time in six days, this one at home in the Round of 16 of the U.S. Open Cup.

Although this game has no bearing on the league standings, Miami is especially hungry for a victory after the 2-1 loss to Nashville last Wednesday and a 3-1 home loss to Orlando City on Saturday. In both games, Inter Miami failed to get off a single shot in the first half.

Things will be no easier the second time against Nashville, which is in second place in the Eastern Conference and riding an eight-game unbeaten streak, during which it has outscored opponents 15-5. Nashville is coming off a 2-1 road win at Charlotte on Saturday and leads the conference with a plus-10 goal differential.

“They’ve got a real distinctive style of play and they’re really experienced,” said Miami coach Phil Neville. “[Nashville coach] Gary [Smith] has brought in really good, battle-hardened MLS players. We’ve had some good battles. The games away have been slightly different from the home games. The temperature and humidity helps us. We want it to be baking hot. It’s winner take all and we want to win.”

Reigning MLS MVP Hany Mukhtar is at the center of Nashville’s success. The German midfielder had an assist against Miami last week and scored both goals in the win over Charlotte. He is tied for second place in MLS with eight goals and third with six assists.

“They’ve got a special player in Mukhtar who can produce magical moments against any top defender,” Neville said. “He’s the biggest threat to us. He can run, has good speed behind. You have to say, `Who feeds him? Where is the supply line? How can we stop service to him?’.”

Before the recent two-game slide, Miami had turned around from an 0-6 slump to win five games in a row. But the team struggled to score against Nashville and Orlando. The lone Miami goal against Nashville came from Dixon Arroyo in added time just before the final whistle. Leo Campana scored a spectacular left-footed goal against Orlando, but otherwise the team did not have many chances.

Without a true playmaker, Miami is relying on forwards Campana and Josef Martinez, whom Neville said are developing a good partnership.

“It takes time to get used to each other and speaking to Josef and Leo in the last 48 hours, they’re definitely feeling more of a connection, are beginning to understand each other.”

Sergiy Kryvtsov (calf) trained Monday and may play. Rodolfo Pizarro (hamstring) is still out. Neville mentioned that Benja Cremaschi was exhausted playing almost every minute the last several games, and DeAndre Yedlin had some thigh tightness.

The winner of Tuesday’s game advances to the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals and would play the winner of the Birmingham Legion vs. Charlotte FC game. Last year Miami lost 4-2 on penalties to eventual champion Orlando City in the Round of 16.

The U.S. Open Cup was established 109 years ago and is one of the oldest soccer tournaments in the world. It is an all-comers knockout tournament that includes amateur clubs all the way up to MLS. The champion is awarded $300,000 in prize money and a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Azcona Makes History

Inter Miami midfielder Edison Azcona, a 19-year-old from Deerfield Beach, made history at the Under-20 World Cup on Sunday. Wearing the captain’s armband, he became the Dominican Republic’s first player to score at any FIFA World Cup tournament when he converted a penalty kick in a 2-1 defeat to Nigeria in Mendoza, Argentina.

Neville was delighted to see Azcona score.

“He’s been through a tough time, hasn’t had the consistency or rhythm he should have,” Neville said. “This is a big tournament for Edison. If he comes out of this tournament full of confidence, I think we will feel the benefit.”