NASHVILLE, TN – Nashville SC got 2023 off to a strong start, beating New York City FC 2-0 at Geodis Park in the first match of the Major League Soccer season.
With Hany Mukhtar nursing a hip injury picked up in preseason, Randall Leal took his role behind the striker, while newly-signed Fafà Picault got his first start.
On the pitch
Against an in-flux NYCFC, Nashville looked far the more confident side in the opening half, dictating possession and creating a handful of half-chances before Walker Zimmerman found the opener. Wearing the armband on the night, the U.S. international thumped the ball home after Fafà Picault headed a set piece back across the box.
With NYCFC pushing for an equalizer, Nashville became a bit more strained in the second half, but their backline held firm. Jack Maher, newly promoted to a starting role after Dave Romney’s departure, was impressive next to Zimmerman, and handled the challenge well to keep track of the Pigeons’ fluid frontline.
Unsurprisingly, the game changed when Mukhtar entered. Just five minutes after he came on, the 2022 Landon Donovan MLS MVP made a trademark weaving run through New York’s defense, drawing a pair of defenders towards him before picking out a wide-open Jacob Shaffelburg for a simple finish.
The big picture
It was an ideal start to the season for Nashville. The crowd of 28,051 was engaged and invested in the match from the opening whistle, making a point to boo Maxime Chanot whenever he touched the ball.
Nashville have always been stout defensively, but they also quieted some of the preseason questions about their attack. Although the sides were level with nine shots each, Nashville created by far the better of the chances, and arguably should have scored more than the three they got.
They’ll get another difficult next weekend, traveling to take on New York Red Bulls in Harrison, Hew Jersey.
Photos courtesy Nashville SC