Welcome back to Speedway Soccer’s latest rendition of player ratings! Nashville SC kicked off its 2023 MLS campaign with a 2-0 victory against NYCFC Saturday at Geodis Park.
Each member of the Speedway Soccer crew gives each player that saw the pitch a rating based on their match performance. Below is a quick guideline for our evaluation process.
- A rating of 6 denotes an average performance. Each player starts out with a 6 and their performance either adds or subtracts from that rating.
- Scores are determined after re-watching the match and looking at the stats, and are the averaged total of each Speedway member’s ratings.
Joe Willis – 6.7: Joe didn’t have to say no too many times with only two saves, but one was a crucial diving save that kept Nashville’s lead intact. He looked more comfortable with his passing out of the back than in prior seasons.
Daniel Lovitz – 7.0: A typically steady performance from Lovitz, who rarely puts a wrong foot in his shifts. Although he only completed one of his six crosses, he still had six passes into the final third and won 67% of his ground duels. His connection with Shaffelburg down the left flank was especially productive.
Walker Zimmerman – 8.5: The reigning MLS defender of the year brought those in attendance flashbacks to Nashville’s first MLS match at Nissan Stadium when he came crashing in and finished his opportunity for the ‘Yotes first goal of the season. Zimmerman was also outstanding in his defensive duties, making four clearances and winning over half of his aerial and ground duels.
Jack Maher – 7.3: Maher will see an increased role in the back with the departure of Dave Romney, but he looks up to the task, completing 93% of his passes, including all four of his long ball attempts.
Shaq Moore – 7.3: Moore kept his flank in check throughout the match with four tackles and 65% ground duels won. Nashville’s right back of choice is poised for a strong campaign after an entire offseason to get acclimated.
Jacob Shaffelburg – 7.8: Far and away Nashville’s most potent attacking option on the day, Shaffelburg took on defenders with the ball and made tons of runs inside the box while he was off the ball. He finally got his deserved goal by being in the right spot for Mukhtar’s squared ball inside the box, tucking it away comfortably.
Anibal Godoy – 7.3: Godoy had some fairly aggressive tackle attempts that resulted in a few fouls, but he still controlled midfield for the ‘Yotes with four interceptions and eight recoveries. Played the last part of the match in pain after injuring his shoulder on a nasty challenge. His status this week will be worth keeping an eye on.
Sean Davis – 6.5: Not Davis’ best day as far as his distribution (72% and 0/4 on his long ball attempts), but still won half of his duels and was a very effective partner for Godoy.
Randall Leal – 7.3: Leal shifted to a more central role in Hany Mukhtar’s absence, a role to which he’s no stranger. He completed all 17 of his passes and had a couple of shots, one of which whistled just inches wide.
Fafa Picault – 6.7: Nashville’s newest winger wasn’t too involved in the buildup and not precise with his passes (56% pass completion), but did provide the assist for Zimmerman on the opening goal. His pace gives Nashville another look on the break, and it asked questions of NYCFC’s high line.
Teal Bunbury – 6.0: Only one shot for Bunbury, who had some decent holdup play and had four passes into the final third.
Alex Muyl (on 72’) – 6.5: Muyl was dribbled past twice but was able to recover well on both. His shift was clearly for defensive purposes.
Hany Mukhtar (on 75′) – 7.3: Quite the introduction for the 2022 MLS MVP, who started the match on the bench after dealing with a hip issue in preseason. His first touch led to an assist for Nashville’s second goal, capping off a lethal run with a clever pass to Shaffelburg. Fans of the ‘Yotes will hope to see Mukhtar fully fit and ready to slot back into the starting XI next week.
Ethan Zubak (on 82′) – 6.0: Zubak won 75% of his aerial duels during his limited time on the pitch, and put in an energetic shift.
Luke Haakenson (on 83′) – 6.0: Only two touches for Haakenson, who completed both of his passes and worked hard to hold onto the two-goal lead.
Gary Smith – 8.3: There were certainly questions from fans regarding Smith’s contract extension before the season started, given Nashville’s recent exits from the MLS Cup playoffs and a perceived lack of attacking ambitions.
However, he was certainly able to silence the doubters with this opening result in which Nashville dominated in the xG category (1.32-0.41), even without his MVP in the starting lineup. The defensive work of his team is unquestioned though, as NYCFC had zero answers trying to unlock the ‘Yotes defense. Shaffelburg and Leal looked in midseason form already.
Next week’s trip to New York Red Bulls will be a good test to see if Nashville can build on their opening day statement. If they can maintain the form they showed on Saturday, they could be in for a better year than predicted.
What say you? Do you agree or disagree with our match ratings? Feel free to reach out to us on Twitter and let us know your thoughts.