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Nashville SC Gets Into the Black with Commanding Season Opening Win at GEODIS Park

by Rich and Laura Lynch

Nashville Soccer Club's 2022 campaign ended under a dark cloud of bad calls and hand balls that ultimately led to an early first round elimination in the playoffs. But hope springs eternal even if our Boys in Gold took a turn for even blacker horizons at the season opener on February 25, 2023. It is not as ominous as it sounds. The team kicked off the new year dedicating the day to music icon Johnny Cash.

The MLS MVP is back in black in Nashville.

The historic match against New York City FC marked the first time that Nashville SC wore their Man in Black kits. The uniforms created in collaboration with the estate of Johnny Cash, Sandbox Succession, and Wasserman Music were designed to pay tribute to one of the most influential singer-songwriters of all time, Johnny Cash. Fans were encouraged to wear black on Saturday and many were sporting the new Man in Black gear.

On Saturday John Carter Cash (the son of June & Johnny Cash) was on hand to play the Guitar Riff of the game which is one of many traditions that NSC has made their own. Later, Cash along with his wife Ana Cristina Cash who is also a singer-songwriter performed during the half time show. They delighted the crowd with Cash classics including "Jackson" and "I Walk The Line".

There was a whole lot of black in the backline on Opening Day.

The rather cool, damp weather did not dampen anyone spirits on Saturday. The supporter section was enthusiastic and loud through much of the match. There was a lot of back and forth during the first half with some shots on goal yet no score. But faith would be rewarded close to the 34th minute when Walker Zimmerman found the back of the net for the first NSC goal of the game. As a homage to Johnny Cash, the defender ran to the corner flag using it as a mic and sang the song "Ring of Fire".

John Carter Cash and Ana Cristina Cash performed at halftime.

The second half was perhaps a bit sluggish as NSC held on to their lead. However, the energy was elevated when at the 75th minute Hany Mukhtar (Mr. Golden Boot and 2022 Landon Donovan MLS MVP) entered the match. #10's presence made an immediate impact on the pitch as he sliced through the New York defense, setting up Jacob Shaffelburg to score the second goal of the contest five minutes after Mukhtar's arrival. Thus, giving NSC added assurance in a match that ran seven minutes over.

Hany Mukhtar's arrival late in the second half brought a boost of energy to the stadium.

Nashville Soccer Club opened the 2023 Major League Soccer season with a 2-0 victory over New York City FC in front of a crowd of 28,051 at GEODIS Park. During a post-game press conference, Head Coach Gary Smith commented that they are very capable, happy about the terrific start and that they had a lot of good moments. Smith and the Nashville SC community are hopeful that the team can build on that winning momentum.

The Man in Black; The Mascot in Black; mini soccer Moses; and, the Goalie in Green.

In a post game press conference Coach Smith was asked by team MCN if he was now a Johnny Cash fan. He acknowledged that the Man in Black is indeed a legend and that his music that was being played in the locker room sounded real good to his ears. Now, that Gary has all the pieces in place for the long season we would like to suggest that he makes the Cash song "One Piece At a Time" the team's anthem as they make another run at the MLS Cup. So, let's go boys - Keep the Ring of Fire burning. Take it one day at a time, one piece at a time and give us more showings like your incredible opening victory.

This is the second year that NSC is in their soccer specific stadium. GEODIS Park has plenty of local food vendors and art for sale that can be viewed at the suite level. In addition to the usual pomp and circumstance that is part of a soccer match, NSC has one of the coolest mascots - Tempo (a musical term) The Coyote. A coyote was chosen because one was spotted roaming around the Nashville Fairgrounds (near where the Nashville SC stadium was built) and it became a popular minor celebrity. These extras add to the excitement of game day along with themed events such as the "The Man in Black". NSC hosted a number of themed games last year with more to come in 2023 plus GEODIS Park will be presenting a few concerts during the season.

Randall Leal was a steady presence who provided pressure all game long.

"From the first day we started Nashville Soccer Club, we talked a lot about being 'uniquely Nashville,'" said Nashville SC CEO Ian Ayre. "This city is steeped in music history and Icons of that industry. None more so than the Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash. From our opening match on Feb. 29th, 2020 when our supporters, The Backline, unveiled a Tifo with that famous Johnny Cash image, there has clearly been a strong connection between both The Cash Family and the NSC family. I don't think there can be a greater tribute to Johnny's place in music history or Nashville than to have a team full of Men in Black take the field on behalf of Nashville SC."

"Nashville meant so much to my father, both as a historical music community and a welcoming home," says John Carter Cash. "Connecting the Cash legacy to Nashville Soccer Club and Major League Soccer, and the joy it's bringing to Nashville residents, would have made him proud. I'm delighted to see the Man in Black celebrated alongside the Boys in Gold."

The starting eleven men in black get ready to take the field.

Related Links: For more information on NASHVILLE SC and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Nashville SC | Johnny Cash | John Carter Cash


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