Nashville SC

Nashville SC thoroughly dispatches NYCFC in 2023 opener

Mike Meredith/Club and Country

Midway through the second half in Nashville this afternoon, it was clear that one goal was not going to be enough for the hosts. Walker Zimmerman had put his team on top in the 34th minute, but a Nashville team that had been on the front foot for the entire first half was absorbing more and more pressure. Enter the reigning league MVP. Hany Mukhtar entered the game as a 75th-minute substitute, and by the time the 80-minute mark hit, he had already changed the game. His driving run at the NYCFC backline and a layoff pass for Jacob Shaffelburg, and Nashville SC had doubled the lead, and reached the 2-0 score by which the team would ultimately emerge victorious.

It was a rightful coronation for Mukhtar, who let his team take plenty of the glory early on before reminding everyone that if he’s not an opener, he sure as hell is going to be the closer.

Early this afternoon, Nashville SC was buzzing. Stepping in to the No. 10 role in place of Mukhtar, Randall Leal was able to combine up the left to create some significant danger. His sixth-minute throughball to Shaffelburg put the Canadian in on goal, but he was led just enough that NYC goalkeeper Luis Barraza was able to cut off his shooting angle. Another chance for Shaffelburg a couple minutes later. The Boys in Gold were building pressure, but all too rarely was it turning into a legitimate threat on the New York City goal. With the Pigeons hardly able to enter the attacking third (and when they did get there, firing wild shots from distance), Nashville was dominating the run of play.

So of course, it was the old standby – a set piece – when Nashville finally broke the ice in the 34th minute. A 1-2 between Teal Bunbury and Shaffelburg saw the youngster turn it over, but he used his motor to poke it back to Bunbury. In walling off right back Tayvon Gray, the savvy veteran earned a free kick. Leal played it to the back post, where offseason signing Fafa Picault headed it to the center of the six-yard box. Nashville’s two-time defender of the year and best set-piece threat, Zimmerman, was there to side-volley home with his right foot.

The teams came out of the locker room with Nashville on top, but New York City determined to change the course of the game. In the 48th minute, Thiago Andrade worked in-behind the right side of Nashville’s defense. He squared for Matías Pellegrini at the penalty spot, but with defenders converging, the Argentine put it well over the bar.

The teams traded blows, with much of Nashville’s danger continuing to come from set-piece situations. But New York slowly reversed a possession deficit from halftime, and began to dominate the ball. While that didn’t turn into much danger – Pellegrini took another shot worth 0.08 expected goals, but that pair would represent the high-water mark for NYC danger.

In part, that’s because Nashville SC brought in its ringer. Five minutes after entering the game, Mukhtar took a pass near the midfield stripe and drove at the New York City defense. While he couldn’t find a shooting angle (wisely, the Pigeons’ defensive unit worked to take away his stronger right foot), Shaffelburg’s barreling run down the left gave Mukhtar a passing option, and with one swing of his left foot, Shaffelburg had doubled the lead.

From there, the priority was simply seeing out a game in front of 28,051 fans. New York City carried on in the same manner: dominating the ball, but creating little. The only scary moment came for Nashville when midfielder Aníbal Godoy was tackled at midfield, coming down hard directly on his right elbow, and holding his shoulder. Since the Boys in Gold had already used their substitution windows, the former Panama captain toughed it out, but he was clearly in pain.

With the victory, Nashville moves to the top of the MLS table with (checks notes) one of 493 games played this season. NSC will try to remain on the winning end with a trip to New York next weekend. It won’t be NYCFC but rather their New Jersey brethren, New York Red Bulls, at 7:30 p.m. local time (6:30 Central).

Starting lineups

Yeah, we’ll be working on this. Works for now!

Match events

  • 28′ NYC Yellow card – 3 Braian Cufré (tactical foul on Randall Leal up the sideline)
  • 34′ NSH GOAL – 25 Walker Zimmerman (right-footed volley), assisted by 12 Teal Bunbury (header back across) and 8 Randall Leal (right footed free kick).
  • 45’+2 Half time
  • 58′ NSH Yellow card – 14 Jacob Shaffelburg (foul)
  • 62′ NYC Yellow card – Talles Magno (foul)
  • 70′ NYC Substitution – On 22 Kevin O’Toole, off 3 Braian Cufré
  • 71′ NSH Substitution – On 19 Alex Muyl, off 7 Fafa Picault
  • 75′ NYC Yellow card – 8 Thiago (retaliation)
  • 75′ NSH Substitution – On 10 Hany Mukhtar, off 8 Randall Leal
  • 80′ NSH GOAL – 14 Jacob Shaffelburg (left-footed), assisted by 10 Hany Mukhtar (lay-off after long dribble)
  • 82′ NYC Substitution – On 35 Mitja Ilenic, off 24 Tayvon Gray
  • 83′ NSH Substitutions –
    • On 11 Ethan Zubak, off 12 Teal Bunbury
    • On 26 Luke Haakenson, off 14 Jacob Shaffelburg
  • 90’+3 NYC Yellow card – 4 Maxime Chanot (foul)
  • 90’+8 Full time

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