Following an extended rain delay, during the late hours on Saturday (or early hours of Sunday for supporters back home on East Coast time), Atlanta United played Nashville SC to a 2-2 draw at GEODIS Park.
It was Atlanta United’s second trip to Nashville in 10 days. On May 11, Nashville SC scored a goal in second-half stoppage time to even the score and force extra time. This time around, Atlanta United was the side to come-from-behind and equalize late, scoring their second goal of the night in the 88th minute on a knock-in from striker Dom Dwyer.
With the result, Atlanta United earned a valuable point on the road in MLS play.
"I think we were a little bit unorganized at times," head coach Gonzalo Pineda said. "But we had the right mentality, the right attitude to come back into the game."
Saturday’s match In Nashville kicked off as scheduled at 7:55 p.m. ET. Game action went into the 19th minute with the score tied 0-0. Then, the referee signaled lightning in the area and sent the teams off the field. The original result was a 30-minute delay, but lightning continued well into the evening.
The lightning delay lasted two hours and 52 minutes before play continued.
Following the delay, Atlanta United and Nashville SC reentered the field. Even after significant time in the locker room, the teams were on the front foot early and three goals were scored within the first 15 minutes of resumed play.
Nashville SC scored first. Atlanta United midfielder Matheus Rossetto, on the left flank, passed the ball centrally into a dangerous part of the field. Nashville was able to turn it over quickly. Midfielder Hany Mukhtar attacked and passed the ball in behind. Forward C.J. Sapong slid the ball past Atlanta goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth to give Nashville the 1-0 lead in the 23rd minute.
Then, Nashville SC gave Atlanta United a gift. Trying to move the ball in the back while under pressure from Atlanta United striker Ronaldo Cisneros, Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis sent a poor pass that didn’t make it out of the 18-yard-box. Marcelino Moreno intercepted the pass and sent the ball to Thiago Almada. The young midfielder calmly knocked in the shot to even the match 1-1 in the 27th minute.
The goal was Almada’s third of the season. Moreno was credited with the assist, his fifth of the year.
"Thiago being the no. 10 with Marcelino coming inside, Luiz [Araújo] at times inside, at times outside, Rossetto with some rotations in there, it works very well because they are very good at finding the spaces in between the lines," Pineda said.
But Nashville quickly retook the lead. In the 32nd minute, defender Jack Maher crossed the ball from the right side toward the back post. Sapong headed the ball across goal and Mukhtar, in great position, delivered a header into the back of the net to give Nashville the 2-1 lead.
"A good way to come back is obviously to clean up the softballs that we've been giving up," Pineda said. "But another good way is just to keep attacking more."
And Atlanta United did just that. The last minutes of the match were wide open with both teams taking chances and Atlanta United pushing for the equalizer. In the 88th minute, Atlanta found it. Almada chipped a ball over Nashville’s backline to defender Brooks Lennon. Dwyer ran onto Lennon’s one-touch pass across the six-yard box and finished it off to steal three points from the Western Conference opponent.
"I think it was a reward for the players' heart and passion to come back in a tough and difficult game," Pineda said.
Atlanta United entered the match hoping to avenge the last meeting between the two sides. Not two weeks ago, Atlanta visited GEODIS Park for a matchup in the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on May 11. Atlanta United went ahead two goals, but Nashville SC battled back to tie the match and force extra time. The home side came out on top 3-2 to advance to the Round of 16 and knock the defending champs out of the competition.
On Saturday, Atlanta United flipped the script to earn a result. Now, Atlanta United heads into two consecutive home matches in MLS with a well-earned point on the road against a quality opponent.