New York City and Nashville SC players battle right before the end of the first half. (George Walker IV/USA TODAY

A nightmare two minutes in the first half helped doom New York City FC to a 3-1 loss at Nashville SC Friday night.

NYCFC (34 points) dropped to 10-6-4 while Nashville (38) improved to 9-2-11.

“I am proud of the boys about a lot of things today,” NYCFC head coach Ronny Deila said. “We fought the entire game, the full 95 minutes. We tried everything. We were ourselves. We were offensive. We pressed high. We played our game. We had the ball 58 percent of the time, I am not a big fan of having the ball as much as possible it’s more about how much chances you create and how effective you can be.”

NYCFC dropped to 2-5-3 on the road.

“Away we haven’t been able to take a lot of points, but I think it comes down to different game situations and moments,” midfielder Nicholas Acevedo said. “We feel that we control matches away from home most of the time but maybe we are missing being clinical or need to have more confidence defensively but I feel that we are doing a good job on the road.”

City’s backline was depleted as James Sands, Alex Callens, Maxime Chanot and Gudi Thórarinsson were with their respective international teams for World Cup qualifying matches.

Hany Mukhtar scored the first of his two goals in the 30th minute, off an assist from Dax McCarty. Only two minutes later, defender Vuk Latinovich, in his first City start, scored an own goal, slipping a Nashville cross into his own net past goalkeeper Sean Johnson, to give the hosts a 2-0 lead. Daniel Ríos received the ball from Mukhtar just inside the 18-yard box, and sends a ball in to find the right corner of the net after deflecting Latinovich.

“We started off the game really well,” Acevedo said. “We had control of the game. W were generating a lot of chances but they ultimately converted on their key opportunities. In large part we controlled the game, but they took advantage of the space in the back.”

NYCFC midfielder Maxi Moralez and McCarty were given their marching orders in the 45th minute. McCarty, a former Red Bulls captain, took down Moralez hard and the midfielder came up fighting. Both teams finished the match with 10 players apiece.

“It’s a blow for us to lose Maxi,” Deila said. “He’s been great for us for a long period, but they got a red card as well, so it was 10 v 10.”

Added Acevedo: “After the red card we played a 4-4-1. We were playing well in the first half but obviously to lose a player of Maxi’s caliber is tough but in the second half we continued to try and play as tough as we could.”

It didn’t matter how many players Nashville had on the field as Mukhtar, off an assist from C.J. Sapong increased the lead to 3-0 in the 68th minute.

“He’s electric at the moment. Absolutely electric,” Nashville head coach Gary Smith said. “You know what, when you see creative players in the sort of form he’s in, as much as I’m looking at it as a coach and as a manager of the group, I’m as excited as the fans when he gets on the ball. It looks like things are going to happen, and you can sense that feel around and the expectation from the fans.”

Taty Castellanos helped NYCFC avoid a shutout in the 90th minute, putting home an Alfredo Morales assist for his teamo=-high 11th goal of the season in the 90th minute.