The Seattle Sounders’ Xavier Arreaga fights for the ball with Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar during the opening game of the 2022 MLS season Sunday at Lumen Field in Seattle. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

The Seattle Sounders’ Xavier Arreaga fights for the ball with Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar during the opening game of the 2022 MLS season Sunday at Lumen Field in Seattle. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Sounders blanked by Nashville in opener

Aníbal Godoy’s goal in the 80th minute proved to be the difference maker.

By Tim Booth / Associated Press

SEATTLE — Nashville SC was already looking to be a rising young club during its first couple of seasons in the Eastern Conference of Major League Soccer.

It looks like Nashville will be just as competitive and challenging now playing out West.

Aníbal Godoy scored his seventh career MLS goal in the 80th minute to give Western Conference newcomer Nashville SC a 1-0 win over the Seattle Sounders in the season opener for both teams Sunday night.

It was an impressive statement by Nashville to begin the season, even if coach Gary Smith doesn’t expect either team to be defined by the opener.

“There’s many things that we want to try and achieve in in these opening games. I think we’ve been able to tick a couple off the list tonight,” Smith said. “But in all honesty, these early games in the early stages, whilst tonight will be very exciting and I’m extremely pleased the way the group have performed, I truly don’t think you get an idea of where the teams are.”

What was evident was Nashville’s terrific defensive performance that shut down Seattle’s attack. Nashville was finally rewarded in the closing minutes when Godoy, unmarked at the back post, finished off a cross from Randall Leal.

Seattle failed to get an official shot on goal until a weak header by Fredy Montero in the 87th minute. Nicolas Lodeiro had a header dribble wide in second-half stoppage time but it was otherwise a quiet night for Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis.

“We didn’t get too many opportunities to run behind the backline because of the way they play and it’s always frustrating to play against a team like that,” Seattle’s Cristian Roldan said. “But at the same time I didn’t think that we played fairly well. I felt that we were lacking a little bit today.”

Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei made three saves. He initially stopped a shot from Teal Bunbury in the build up to Godoy’s goal, but Nashville retained possession after the rebound and Leal eventually found Godoy.

It was Godoy’s first goal since Aug. 30, 2020, against Inter Miami.

“Randall has very good vision and this is why I chose to go into the box and he put a great ball for me,” Godoy said.

Seattle had its second straight home loss after losing to Real Salt Lake on penalties in the opening round of last year’s MLS Cup playoffs. The Sounders were without striker Raul Ruidiaz due to a sore right hamstring after Thursday’s win over Motagua in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said Ruidiaz would not play next week against Real Salt Lake, but was hoping he’d be available for Seattle’s Champions League game against León on March 8.

“I didn’t think we created enough tempo,” Schmetzer said. “The game was slow.”

Nashville will play its first eight games away from home before returning to its new 30,000-seat stadium for a May 1 game against Philadelphia.

Nashville, which finished third in the Eastern Conference last season, moved to the West due to the arrival of Charlotte FC as the newest expansion club. And for the first night, Nashville looked the part of a contender in the West.

The best scoring chance in the first 45 minutes belonged to Nashville’s Hany Mukhtar, who found a gap in the Seattle defense at the top of the penalty area. His right-footed shot was deflected wide on a diving stop by Frei.

Nashville will continue its trip next week at Minnesota United, while Seattle is at Real Salt Lake.

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