Walker Zimmerman scores the first goal of the 2023 MLS season as Nashville SC downs New York City FC in the first Opening Day game at Geodis Park… with the Men in Black sealing a 2-0 victory
Walker Zimmerman ran to the corner flag after his opening goal had trickled over the line. With the rest of his teammates dressed in Nashville SC’s so-called ‘Man in Black’ kit – a tribute to the late music icon Johnny Cash – Zimmerman and the rest of the pack imitated a band, air guitars and all.
The cameras lingered on Zimmerman and caught the captain singing the song ‘Ring of Fire’ – a song popularized by Cash and partially written by his wife, June Carter Cash.
‘And it burns, burns, burns, that ring of fire,’ microphones caught Zimmerman singing as he looked into the crowd.
The crowd at Nashville’s Geodis Park may as well have been burning, burning, burning, as they were euphoric having scored the first goal of the MLS season. The ten-month-old stadium was hosting an Opening Day game for the first time in its short history and the home side did not disappoint.
Within 34 minutes, Zimmerman nodded in his header – a second chance ball sent in from winger Fabrice Picault off a set piece – that was all that was required for Nashville to get all three points in the first game played in the 2023 MLS season.
Walker Zimmerman (middle) opened the scoresheet on the 2023 MLS Season with a goal
After nearly 47 more minutes, reigning MLS golden boot winner Hany Mukhtar laid off a nice little pass for Jacob Shaffelburg – who put the ball away to make it a 2-0 game.
It’s an excellent start to the season for a Nashville SC team looking to make a bigger mark after falling in the opening round of last seasons’ MLS Cup Playoffs to the eventual title winners Los Angeles FC.
That was back when Nashville was playing in MLS’s Western Conference – something which changed with the addition of St. Louis City SC, who will also make their club debut this evening.
On the other side of the pitch, it’s a sign of growing pains for a New York City FC team that will surely be looking to rebuild after starting this season without five key players that helped them lift the title in 2021.
Longtime goalkeeper Sean Johnson left for Toronto in free agency. Left back Anton Tinnerholm returned to his hometown club Malmo.
Midfielder Maxi Moralez also returned to his former club, Racing in Argentina. Santi Rodriguez joined City Football Group’s club in Uruguay: Montevideo City Torque.
Center back Alexander Callens moved to City’s La Liga side Girona. There, he joins Valentin ‘Taty’ Castellanos – a loanee from NYCFC who is likely to permanently leave the club.
In all, the pitched looked much different for fans of The Pigeons: with six starters from last season needing replacement.
Zimmerman turned in the second chance ball from Fabrice Picault to open the season
The captain gathered his teammates and pointed them towards the corner flag to celebrate
Just ten minutes from full time, Nashville was rapturous again thanks to Jacob Shaffelburg (14)
Fans at Geodis Park were raucous after Zimmerman’s score gave them the lead and the win
It was the first Opening Day match for Geodis Park in the stadium’s ten month history
It was a poor start to what will likely be a rough season of transition for New York City FC
It’s not likely this City team will be able to match the feats of the last two seasons: an MLS Cup victory, followed up by an Eastern Conference Finals appearance.
This also marks a loss for manager Nick Cushing in what is expected to be his first full season in charge of NYCFC. Cushing took over midway through last season when Ronny Delia left to take the managerial position at Standard Liege in Belgium.
The joyful mood in the crowd was stunted by an injury to midfielder Anibal Godoy, who was brought to the ground after NYCFC midfielder Matias Pellegrini wrapped his arm around the Nashville player.
Godoy landed on his shoulder and was seen screaming in pain. A stretcher was brought out for him, but he was helped off by training staff before eventually continuing on.
Nashville finished the match with only 38 percent possession, but had four shots on target from nine total shots. NYCFC also had nine total shots, but only two on target.
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