Preview: Nashville SC vs New York City FC

133 days. When Nashville SC takes to the field tomorrow, it will have been 133 days since their defeat to the Los Angeles Galaxy. The Boys in Black are back in the Eastern Conference as they welcome New York City FC to GEODIS Park in the league opener. The ‘Yotes will debut their new Johnny Cash-inspired kits in what’s been dubbed “The Man In Black” match.

The two sides have already formed a bit of a rivalry, with plenty of fireworks in their last meeting in Music City. Dax McCarty and Maxi Moralez were both sent off after a bench-clearing scuffle.

Can Nashville get a win and start the season off with three points? Will a new look NYCFC spoil the party and get a result on the road? Will their be more bad blood?

Nashville SC

Last Season: 5th (West) | 50 points | 13-11-10 | +11 GD


QUESTIONABLE: Dax McCarty (thigh), Hany Mukhtar (hip), CJ Sapong (thigh)
Nick DePuy (lower leg)

New season, new conference.

After their one-year foray into the Western Conference, the ‘Yotes are back home in the East. Gary Smith and the team are quite happy to be back where they belong amongst their more natural rivals and with a reduced travel schedule.

In the off season, Nashville was able to keep most of their core together from the season previous, which should set them up well coming in to 2023. Davey Romney was traded to New England and Aké Loba was shipped out to Liga MX. They also got considerably stronger out on the wings. They made Jacob Shaffelburg’s loan permanent as soon as they could and traded for Fafa Picault.

Nashville really struggled for depth out on the wings and the additional attacking production could help alleviate the attacking burden from Hany Mukhtar. However, the team still lacks a consistent goal scoring threat at the number 9 to pair with Mukhtar in the withdrawn forward role. There is still time but they have to get the decision right.

Outside of roster moves, Nashville announced on Thursday that they had extended Gary Smith’s contract an additional two years, taking him through 2025. With the reigning DP, two-time defender of the Year, and no off-the-field distraction, the time to win is now.

After three years of MLS, it’s pretty clear how Nashville prefers to play. Gary Smith has settled on a 4-4-2 type system where the second forward (Hany Mukhtar) drops a bit deeper. They’ll look to play in transition and get crosses into the box, and their defensive solidity allows them to absorb pressure well.

That being said, there could be a tactical evolution or a slight tweak to the formation they worked on in reason. However, nobody outside staff of both teams saw any preseason matches, much to the detriment of fans and media alike.

The ‘Yotes do have some injury concerns going into the match with NYCFC. Mukhtar, CJ Sapong, and Dax McCarty are all listed as questionable, but Smith said they should be ready to go for the match. Baring any last minute fitness concerns, expect to see both Sapong and Mukhtar leading the line.

In the midfield, Fafà Picault is expected to make his regular-season debut out on the left. He’s a great two-way winger who has the ability to cut inside when needed and isn’t afraid to shoot or pass the ball. We saw how Jacob Shaffelburg ignited the attack last season and Picault could do the same this year.

The rest of the midfield will be full of familiar faces. Randall Leal will lineup out on the right and look to drift inside while Aníbal Godoy and Sean Davis will be tasked with winning back possession and controlling the midfield.

At the back, the only real “change” is that Jack Maher will finally take up the mantle of starting centerback next to Walker Zimmerman. Maher has been with the team his entire MLS career and has seen more time year after year but is now a full-time starter.

The consistency and continuity that Nashville has should go a long way against an NYCFC team in the midst of massive transition.

New York City FC

Last season: 3rd (East) | 55 points | 16-7-11 | +16 GD



If you could describe the NYCFC offseason in word, it would be transition. After a third place finish in the East they lost a multitude of key players.

Anton Tinnherholm, Sean Johnson, Maxi Moralez, Alexander Callens all made moves away from the team. They were also on the verge of losing Santi Rodríguez, the heir-apparent to Moralez, but all reports indicate that he will re-sign with the team. Fortunately for Nashville, he won’t be available tomorrow.

NYCFC have been in this situation before and can draw on the vast resources of City Football Group to restock this team, but don’t expect to see much before the summer window.

Head Coach Nick Cushing stepped into the role last season after the departure of Ronny Delia. The team struggled a bit when he first took over but was able to get the team back on track down the stretch. He prefers to play a 4-3-3 that looks to control the game by maintaining possession.

Against Nashville, NYCFC will leverage its numerical advantage in the middle park and use Alfredo Morales and Keaton Parks to dictate play. They’ll look to get the ball either out to the wings or to Talles Magno, who can drop deep from the forward position.

Magno is one of the most exciting young players in the league, but he is learning a new position this year. He has historically been a winger, but lack of options are forcing him into a more central role. It worked for Taty Castellanos. Maybe history will repeat itself.

The defense should be the biggest opportunity for Nashville. Of the back five, Maxime Chanot and Thiago Martins are the lone holdovers, but they weren’t the preferred pairing. Mukhtar and Sapong should have no problems finding gaps in a defensive with very little experience as a unit.

Pod picks

Andy Simmons

Score: Nashville 1 – 1 NYCFC
Scores: Fafa Picault
MOTM: Walker Zimmerman
Bold Prediction: Nashville concedes in the 2nd half after going up early.

John Sloop

Score: Nashville 2 – 0 NYCFC
Scores: Hany Mukhtar (x2)
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: One of Hany’s goals is a penalty.

Chris Ivey

Score: Nashville 3 – 1 NYCFC
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar (x2), Randall Leal
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: NYCFC has more possession

Ben Wright

Score: Nashville 3 – 1 NYCFC
Scorers: Randall Leal, Fafà Picault, Hany Mukhtar,
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Mukhtar comes off the bench and scores late

Jonathan Slape

Score: Nashville 2 – 0 NYCFC
Scores: Hany Mukhtar, Randall Leal
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville gets both of their goals in the first half.

Fan Forecast

Kit Match Up

Match Info

Teams: Nashville SC vs New York City FC
Odds: Nashville (-225), Draw (+350), Houston (+550) via BetMGM
Date: Saturday, February 25
Time: 3:30 pm CT, GEODIS Park, Nashville, Tennessee
TV: Fox; Apple TV – Free
Radio: El Jefe 96.7 (Spanish)
Forecast: 52°/46°. Scattered Showers. 77% chance of rain. 60% humidity

Author: Jonathan Slapeoriginated from outside of Atlanta but has lived in Nashville since 2005. Original member of Speedway Soccer and has been talking and occasionally writing about Nashville SC since the USL days. Self proclaimed official fashion correspondent. Outside of Nashville SC you can find him singing the praises of Jurgen Klopp, discussing the latest in sneakers and soccer fashion with a good stiff drink.

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