Nashville SC dominates New York City FC, 2-0, in 2023 season opener
The origin of Nashville SC's 'Man in Black' Johnny Cash uniforms
Nashville SC's "Man In Black" Johnny Cash uniforms were unveiled by the MLS club on Friday. Here's how they came to be.
Nicole Hester, Nashville Tennessean
The reigning Major League Soccer MVP plays for Nashville SC and for most of Saturday's 2023 season opener, it didn't need him.
Hany Mukhtar eventually entered the game in the 75th minute of Nashville's win over New York City FC at Geodis Park with a 1-0 lead. Five minutes later, he assisted winger Jacob Shaffelburg's goal that sealed a 2-0 win.
Center back and captain Walker Zimmerman scored the opening goal in the 34th minute. Nashville is now 2-1-1 in its MLS season openers.
Here's the three best takeaways from the game:
SIGNED AND SEALED:Nashville SC gives coach Gary Smith contract extension through 2025
GENTRY ESTES:Crumbling Titans? Stumbling Preds? Hey, Nashville SC: This is your moment
Nashville were sharp in attack without Mukhtar (hip). Center forward Teal Bunbury, wingers Fafa Picault and Shaffelburg, as well as Randall Leal were involved in both Nashville goals.
"If we look at the two wide players — and Randall we've already spoken about him at length — hugely influential," Nashville coach Gary Smith said. "But I thought Teal's hold-up play (was too)."
Picault assisted on Zimmerman's goal in his Nashville debut, after being traded from Houston Dynamo FC in November. Smith said Picault and Shaq Moore's "creation" on the right flank presented a skill Nashville didn't have in 2022.
Nashville debuted its "Man in Black" jerseys, dedicated to Johnny Cash. It inspired much of the 28,051 in attendance to wear all black in honor of Cash, whose birthday would've been Sunday.
Picault's birthday was Friday. He said Nashville's win, his assist and the Cash aura was the perfect debut combo.
"To come out here tonight, the new jerseys, new hype and in the first game of the season, it was an amazing feeling," he said.
Jacob Shaffelburg slices the ball passed NYCFC goalkeeper Luis Barraza to seal the win. Hany Mukhtar records an assist.
NYCFC forward Kevin O'Toole rips a shot from 30 yards and forces Joe Willis to punch the ball over the goal.
Nashville center back and captain Walker Zimmerman scores inside the 18-yard box. Randall Leal's indirect free kick is initially cleared, albeit poorly by Maxime Chanot. Fafa Picault heads the ball back to Zimmerman for the strike.
Nashville forward Teal Bunbury's deflected shot forces NYCFC goalkeeper Luis Barraza to punch the ball over the net.
NYCFC forward Talles Magno strikes the ball 20 yards from goal, skidding the crossbar and escaping Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis.
Nashville winger Jacob Shaffelburg strikes the ball 15 yards from goal but goalkeeper Luis Barraza extends his left leg to make the save.
The Backline Supporters Collective, which represents the seven supporters groups of Nashville SC, raises a Hany Mukhtar "Man in Black," tifo, or banner, paying tribute to music icon Johnny Cash.
For stories about Nashville SC or Soccer in Tennessee, contact Drake Hills at DHills@gannett.com. Follow Drake on Twitter at @LiveLifeDrake. Connect with Drake on Instagram at @drakehillssoccer and on Facebook.