By Michael Lewis Editor

The bad news is that New York City FC did not look so good in its MLS season opener on Saturday.

The good news is that the Cityzens have 33 games to get their act together.

They better – or else.

City went down to a distressing and a rather lackluster 2-0 defeat to Nashville SC at Geodis Park, a result that did not look as close as the final score.

If it wasn’t for the poor finishing by the hosts and a solid goalkeeping performance by Luis Barraza, the margin could have been more.

Walker Zimmerman and Jacob Shaffelburg celebrated goals for Nashville on either side of halftime.

NYCFC hardly looked anywhere close to the imposing side that claimed the 2021 MLS Cup. Many of the players who were key contributors to that championship team are not with the team anymore. And  their replacements were not impressive at all.

In fact, NYCFC looked awful at times. The visitors allowed the Tennessee-based side to penetrate deep into its territory countless times. Nashville attacked so much it was awarded five corner kicks in the opening half and several free kicks close enough to the goal to be considered dangerous.

“I don’t think we carried enough of the ball to control the game,” NYCFC head coach Nick Cushing said. “There were far too many set-plays – we gave away far too many set-plays because we didn’t carry the ball enough, which meant that they could throw the ball. We knew they were going to be a direct team, we knew they were going to run off the backline, and put a lot of players up against us – and the one way to control those moments happening is to have the ball.

“We didn’t carry the ball enough, and if you give Nashville, who we know are a direct team and play off set-play, that amount of set-plays in the first half, they’re going to score. For us, it’s about controlling the game with the ball. It’s our identity – if the game goes up and down, the opposition are better than us. It’s a simple game.”

A set piece set up Nashville’s first goal after Tayvon Gray fouled Teal Bunbury within striking distance of the visitors’ goal.

A free kick was sent into the box. Fafà Picault headed a pass to U.S. men’s national team center back Zimmerman, who slotted the ball past Barraza from close-range in the 34th minute.

Without several key attacking players who had departed the club during the offseason, NYCFC’s attack was rather inconsistent at best.

Needing a goal to leave the venue with a point, City raised its game in the second half, but never truly threatened an equalizer until Kevin O’Toole drilled a shot from distance that goalkeeper Joe Wills needed two hands to knock away in the 78th minute.

It proved too be a decisive play. Only two minutes later, Shaffelburg, off a pass from reigning league MVP and second-half substitute Hany Mukhtar, tallied from the left side of the box to give Nashville some breathing room.

NYCFC will get an opportunity to improve on its performance next Saturday when it visits the Chicago Fire.