Guess Who's Back?
Ladies and gentlemen, after a year off from writing due to a new job with a more demanding schedule, ya boi is back with the MLSNow team covering the MASSIVE Boys in Gold from Nashville SC.
It feels good. I'm not gonna lie.
Since my sabbatical, Geodis Park has opened, and it's glorious! My ticket is in the supporters' section. I don't say "seat" because WE STAND, JUMP, AND SING OUR HEARTS OUT FOR THE BOYS! The atmosphere in The Castle is electric every game. No matter the opponent, the Backline gets the people going, and the whole place is rocking!
(Photo courtesy of the Tennessean)
What else? Hmm...OH YEAH!! Hany Mukhtar was the 2022 MLS MVP and Golden Boot winner! After being robbed of the MVP in 2021, the German attacker was rewarded after a season of 23 goals and 11 assists. The two trophies are nice, but Mukhtar has said he has his eyes set on team silverware.
In three MLS seasons, Nashville has never missed the playoffs despite playing in both the East and West conferences. NSC finished last season tied for fourth place in the West, but fifth due to tiebreakers. The Boys in Gold defeated Supporter's Shield and MLS Cup champions LAFC on Decision Day only to lose to LA Galaxy the next week.
During the off-season, two NSC players, Walker Zimmerman and Shaq Moore, represented the United States of America in the FIFA World Cup. The Yanks progressed out of the group stage with a defeat of Iran and draws to Wales and England. Zimmerman played three full matches while Moore saw action against England and Iran. Zimmerman has since been called up for the USMNT January camp as well.
(Photo courtesy of Shelby Phillips)
As far as the roster goes for this season, we have had to bid farewell to an OG in Dave Romney. The ironman of the defense had played the most minutes of any NSC field player over the three seasons. The center back was sold to the New England Revolution for $525k in GAM. DP striker Ake Loba, who has been a drain on the team due to lack of playing time, was loaned to Mazatlan FC in Liga MX. The club also mutually parted ways with winger Handwalla Bwana who electrified when he got the opportunity but rarely saw the field.
There has been an influx of players in goalkeeper Ben Martino (Philadelphia Union), defenders Nick DePuy (Galaxy) and Lawrence Wyke (Tampa Bay Rowdies), winger Nebiyou Perry (Ostersunds FK in Sweden), French midfielder Kemy Amiche (Asheville City SC), and forward Tyler Freeman (Loudon United). Unfortunately, none of these players are "big names", and while the youth is promising, none are proven.
It's possible that some of these young players will be sent to Alabama. That's right! Nashville SC has created Huntsville City FC as its MLS NEXT Pro team. This league was started for MLS teams to groom young players and academy signings in addition to possibly rehabbing first-team players who are returning from injury. It's almost like a farm team for those of you who are baseball fans.
The Boys in Gold kick off the season on Saturday, February 25 against 2021 MLS Cup champs NYCFC. The only two times these teams have faced each other were in 2021 (since NSC spent 2022 in the Western Conference), and Nashville is unbeaten winning 3-1 and drawing 0-0. Last season saw the Bronx Blues finish third in the East and 12 points out of the lead. They defeated Inter Miami 3-0 in the first round, CF Montreal 3-1 in the second, but lost 1-3 in the Eastern Conference Finals to Philadelphia Union.
Nashville SC will look to take the fight to NYC and start the season off with three points at home! Kickoff is 3:30 on Apple TV+, which has been really fun to see this offseason. Be sure to stay tuned to MLSNow Podcast for all your MLS action and news. Follow me on Twitter @ComingUpGolden and also follow my fellow NSC correspondent Christian Wyatt @Superduperwyatt as we will both be writing and podding about the Boys in Gold.
(Huntsville City FC photo courtesy of Huntsville Business Journal. Cover photo courtesy of The Roadies)