Match Recap

Atlanta United rallies to earn road point against rival Nashville SC

Match-Recap-NSH-May-18-v2

Atlanta United traveled to GEODIS Park for some Southern soccer against neighboring rival Nashville SC. Tasked with playing on the road without their two leading playmakers, Atlanta United rallied from behind to force a 1-1 draw and pick up a point on MLS Rivalry Week.

The intensity was felt between these two rivals, especially as the second half progressed, as both clubs entered Saturday aspiring for a turnaround. Atlanta United was looking for the club's first points since April 27. Meanwhile, this was the first match for Nashville SC without Gary Smith, the only head coach in the club's MLS history, who departed the club earlier this week.

With the result, the 5-Stripes broke their three-match losing streak in MLS play.

"I was really pleased with the fight that this team has," Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda said. "We are missing some players with some quality, especially up front, but I think because of the circumstances it was a good performance and a good result for us to, we called it, stop the bleeding. It is a band-aid and hopefully we can keep building some confidence, some connection offensively."

Nashville, led by interim head coach Rumba Munthali, opened the scoring in the 40th minute. Tyler Boyd played a through ball to Hany Mukhtar, who was running up the pitch, defended by Noah Cobb, inside the box. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan came off his line to make a stop, and Mukhtar dove to the ground. A foul was called and the official awarded Nashville a penalty kick. The 2022 Landon Donovan MVP converted the PK to give the home team a one-goal lead.

The story of the first half for Atlanta United was the lack of a final pass, shown no more clearly when after stringing some passes together, including a tight triangle between Bartosz Slisz, Ronald Hernández and Saba Lobjanidze, Atlanta United maintained possession in their attacking half. The ball was kicked out wide to Caleb Wiley into space for what seemed like a chance to put the ball in a dangerous area. The Homegrown’s cross sailed high, beyond the path of any Atlanta or Nashville player, and out-of-bounds.

Atlanta United finished the first 45 without a shot on goal and with 0.07 expected goals.

"The couple of times we were able to move the ball side to side we looked dangerous in the final third, bug again, you can see that there’s a piece there that we are missing in terms of final third," Pineda said. "I think that will come but we have to make this the minimum standard for the club.”

The second half looked better for Atlanta United’s attack, and the team was rewarded with a goal in the 56th minute from Slisz. In their attacking third, Atlanta recycled possession, looking for a chance. Tristan Muyumba, patient on the ball, set up his midfield counterpart beautifully just beyond the box, and Slisz put a quality first-touch shot on goal to level the match 1-1 in the 56th minute.

It was the first career MLS goal for the Polish international, who joined Atlanta United this past offseason. Muyumba tallied his first assist of the season.

Looking for the game-winner, Pineda inserted some attacking options in the second half. Xande Silva entered the match as a second half substitute, replacing Hernández. Jamal Thiaré joined Ríos as an attacking threat up top.

Atlanta United finished the match with nine shots and 53 percent of the possession.

A collective effort from defensive starters Stian Gregersen and Noah Cobb along with their substitutes Efraín Morales and Luis Abram held Mukhtar at bay and kept the home side off the board.

"The players are committed and Efraín [Morales] did a great job," Pineda said. "It's not easy to do that due to the circumstances and confidence level of the team."

Pineda's group had to look to manufacture chances Saturday without their two leading playmakers, Thiago Almada and Giorgos Giakoumakis, who were both out due to injury. As a result, Wiley started the match playing higher up the pitch and midfielder Nick Firmino earned the start.

“We talked about stopping the bleeding, obviously we haven’t won in a couple of games, back-to-back losses, so this is a good step forward for us to build on," Firmino said. "Getting wins on the road in MLS is hard, but a tie does something for the morale of the group, and we look to build on that."

Match Stats
Nashville SC
Atlanta United
Shots
11
9
Shots on target
5
1
Corner kicks
6
1
Fouls committed
8
14
xG
1.5
0.6
Possession
47%
53%
Passing accuracy
81%
82%

Up next - Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 16... then an MLS home match

Following Saturday's match, Atlanta United doesn't get much of a break before they return to action. Atlanta plays next on Tuesday in the Round of 16 of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The club faces Charleston Battery on May 21 at Patriots Point Soccer Complex in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina.

Then, Atlanta United returns home for an MLS match on May 25. They face the reigning Western Conference champions LAFC and their new striker, Olivier Giroud, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

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