Tools ATLatNSH

Atlanta United heads up the road on Thursday night to take on rivals Nashville SC at Nissan Stadium. It marks the second meeting between the two sides this season. In the previous meeting on May 29, Atlanta and Nashville played to a 2-2 draw. Coming off a tough road loss at Chicago, Atlanta is looking to bounce back on Thursday and hand Nashville only its second loss of the 2021 MLS season. Let’s take a look at the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot.
Believe in the system and overcome absences
When Atlanta United hired head coach Gabriel Heinze ahead of the 2021 season, it was with a long term vision in mind. Heinze’s playing style and philosophy take time to implement. Through the first 11 league matches under Heinze, Atlanta United owns a 2-3-6 (W-L-T) record. At Velez Sarsfield in Argentina, Heinze’s record through 11 league matches was very similar (3-3-5). His record over the next 11 games improved to 6-2-3 at Velez. Atlanta United fans are looking for a similar trajectory as we hit the middle portion of Heinze’s first season in MLS. 
Thursday night’s match will also provide opportunity for players who have been sparingly used so far to make their mark in the team. With several key players missing due to injury or international duty, fans can look forward to some other players stepping up. Homegrown midfielder Machop Chol played the final 35 minutes in Chicago and was a spark off the bench with his runs in behind the defense. Look for him and others to step up and impress the coaching staff if given the opportunity on Thursday. 
Finding a way through Nashville’s stout defense
Nashville SC comes into Thursday’s match with five clean sheets on the season, tied for the second-most in MLS. Only the Philadelphia Union have more with six entering this week’s action. One of the major reasons is the consistency that Nashville’s backline has enjoyed. Goalkeeper Joe Willis and defenders Alistair Johnston, Daniel Lovitz, and Dave Romney have played and started all 11 matches so far. Centerback Walker Zimmerman has played 10 of 11 matches. That consistency will be tested though on Thursday with Johnston and Zimmerman missing the match due to Gold Cup call-ups for their country. 
Atlanta found some success against Nashville in the first meeting back in May. They created eight chances and scored two goals. The two goals are tied for the most Nashville has given up in a single-match this season in league play. The 5-Stripes will need to create as many, or even more, chances to give themselves a chance at getting a positive result out of Nissan Stadium. 
Utilize the flanks and set pieces
Atlanta United has been consistently utilizing the flanks and wide channels to serve in crosses to create opportunities. Brooks Lennon is one of the top crossers in the league, while Atlanta United as a team ranks first in MLS in crosses/corner accuracy at 32.4 percent. The 5-Stripes need to continue to exploit those opportunities on the flanks on Thursday night. Set pieces could also become a factor as Atlanta United continues to be the most fouled team in the league. Creating scoring opportunities off set pieces could prove pivotal during this period of time where Atlanta is missing several key pieces in the attack. 
Kickoff is set for 8:30 p.m. ET from Nissan Stadium in Nashville as Atlanta United visits Nashville SC. Fans can tune in on Bally Sports Southeast or follow on radio on Sports Radio 92.9 The Game.

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