Nashville beats NYCFC in MLS season opener

ByReuters ESPN logo
Sunday, February 26, 2023

Walker Zimmerman scored in the first half and Jacob Shaffelburg added a goal in the second as Nashville SC won 2-0 over visiting New York City FCin the opening game of the 2023 MLS season on Saturday.

Without reigning MLS MVP Hany Mukhtar in the starting lineup due to a hip issue, Nashville was no worse for wear in front of their home fans at Geodis Park.

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Zimmerman tallied in the 34th minute. Off Randall Leal's set-piece into the box, the ball eventually found Fafa Picault, who headed it down and then onto the foot of the U.S. men's national team defender Zimmerman, who had enough to get it over the goal line.

Then in the 80th minute and five after Mukhtar made his debut to the delight of the home crowd, Nashville added some insurance. Showing no real signs of any health issue, Mukhtar gained possession, streaked through the NYCFC defense, then slipped the ball to Shaffelburg for the finish.

Meanwhile, NYCFC looked disjointed at times without the likes of key contributors Sean Johnson, Alex Callens and Maxi Moralez gone from the squad that won MLS Cup in 2021 and reached the conference finals last season.

However, New York City did hold nearly 62 percent of the possession. It had two shots that needed to be stopped by Nashville keeper Joe Willis, who posted his 50th career shutout.

NYCFC had their moments, notably within the first minute of the second half, when Matias Pellegrini's open attempt went high over the bar. Pellegrini also struck a left-footer that went just wide in the 61st minute.

Within the first eight minutes, Shaffelburg had two of the game's best early chances. One was saved by new NYCFC keeper Luis Barraza, who stopped another on the day.

While Nashville was by far the offensive aggressor during the first half, New York City did have a quality chance in the 30th minute. However, Braian Cufre's drive ended up in the gut of Willis.

Yet, it was four minutes later that Zimmerman struck for the first goal of the MLS season, and a reward for Nashville's strong start.