New York City FC falls in 2023 MLS Season Opener

Thiago of New York City FC
Thiago of New York City FC / Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

After a crazy offseason of losing big name players, New York City FC started the 2023 season away against Nashville SC.  In fact, the two teams played the first match of the Major League Soccer season.  The hope was that fans would get a fantastic opening game.

For NYCFC fans, there was no doubt they wanted the Pigeons to win, but some had low expectations based on the changes this offseason.  Not every starter that left was properly replaced, and based on the preseason, there was quite a bit of uncertainty with whether the current squad could properly compete. 

Of course, the first game can never decide whether a team will have a bad or good season.  It is only one game.  Still, it seemed most fans had negative outlooks for 2023, especially for the beginning of the season.

Hence, it was not shocking that New York City FC fell to Nashville, 2-0.  While the team performed better as the match went on, they were unable to score.

New York City FC loses MLS opener due to giveaways and mistakes

The first goal occurred after New York City FC gave up a free kick.  After giving the ball away, a foul led to the opportunity, and Nashville is known for capitalizing on set pieces.  At first, Maxime Chanot and Luis Barraza made the initial stops from the free kick, but Walker Zimmerman sent the ball into the goal in the 34th minute.  It was a poor goal to give up, but on the other side of things, it was a great goal from a set piece.  

One would think the Pigeons would have learned, but throughout the match, they continued to give up set pieces.  As a result, Nashville had numerous opportunities, and there were some shaky moments for the Bronx side. It was pure luck that the home side did not score more than two goals.

But, the second goal came from a mistake in the passing. 

Now, in the first half, the Pigeons struggled to keep possession, and the passing was abysmal at times.  There were too many giveaways, especially in the midfield.  The play by NYCFC was poor, and there were limited attacking opportunities. 

In the second half, the play was much stronger, and it looked like a possible draw was on the horizon.  NYCFC led in possession, and there was an increase in goal scoring opportunities.  However, it was a mistake in the passing by Thiago toward Justin Haak that led to a counter attack.  That counter attack led to a quick goal by Jacob Shaffelburg in the 80th minute, and it solidified the three points for Music City. 

Result aside, New York City FC was a little surprising in their play.  They led in the possession with 61.9%, and had 9 shots total, which was equal to Nashville’s total.  They led with 23 clearances, and slightly out-dueled the opposition.  The Pigeons were the better side in the second half as well; it was the mistake that led to the second goal.  Nevertheless, a loss is a loss, and if one team does not score, then they cannot win. 

Quick New York City FC player notes

Notably, Barraza started in goal for New York City FC.  Whether this confirms he is the true starting goalkeeper is yet to be seen, but he managed two saves in the start against Nashville.  He also read the game well, and knew when to leave the goal area or direct his backline.  Ideally, the 26 year old can prove he is just as good as Sean Johnson, and perhaps, better than the former captain. 

In addition, Braian Cufré was the only new player to get the start, for all others in the Starting XI were with the team in 2022.  The new left-back had a solid performance, and had some highlight moments in both the defense and the attack, including a shot on goal in the first half. 

Some players who were not normal starters received their chances, like Haak and Matías Pellegrini.  Both had not-so-notable first half performances, but stepped up in the second half.  They still have a lot of growing to do, but Haak probably has the best opportunity to get more starts as the season progresses. 

Meanwhile, there has been no official announcement, but Chanot was wearing the Captain’s armband.  It is expected he will be the official captain for the 2023 season, and it makes sense due to his veteran status and leadership abilities.  Perhaps the NYCFC squad has not voted yet, and that is why nothing has been announced.

Next. Thiago Martins must step up in 2023 for NYCFC. dark

New York City FC has had rough starts to seasons in the past.  But with the mass exodus of star players, and with quite a bit of pressure on the youth, it is hard to see a year where the Pigeons find success, especially after this match.  But only time will tell, and it is too soon to pass judgment.  Supporters need to give the squad a chance to adjust, and in all honesty, Skyscraper Blues needs to remember this as well.