Following two consecutive home MLS matches for Atlanta United, the 5-Stripes are back on the road this weekend when they make the short trip to Nashville SC. Saturday night’s match will mark the second time in 10 days that these two sides face each other at the new GEODIS Park. The first meeting came on May 11 in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, which Nashville won in extra time. This one will have three league points on the line and be nationally televised on FOX. Atlanta is coming off a 2-2 draw in its last league match against New England, while Nashville earned a 2-1 victory in midweek action against CF Montreal. Let’s take a look at the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot against Nashville SC.
Atlanta’s Attack Showing Consistency
Over the last several weeks, Atlanta’s attack has shown how dangerous it can be. The team has six goals in its last two MLS matches (eight if you include the midweek Open Cup match at Nashville). That’s a great sign for the 5-Stripes. It coincides with the emergence of the attacking fearsome foursome, Thiago Almada, Luiz Araújo, Marcelino Moreno and Ronaldo Cisneros all starting together in those three matches. Last week, the team set a new season-high with 26 total shots, the third time this season they put together 20+ shots in a match. Since April 24, Atlanta United ranks fourth in expected goals (7.77 xG) and tied for fourth in goals scored (8) in MLS. The attack is starting to click with some more consistent playing time together by the front four. They will once again be a key factor in Saturday’s match in order for Atlanta to bring home three road points.
Watch Out for Mukhtar’s Creativity
After taking on Carles Gil last time out, Atlanta will face another quality No. 10 this weekend when they take on Nashville SC and Hany Mukhtar. The German-born Designated Player leads the team with three goals and four assists. He has generated 17 key passes and recorded the most shots on target for Nashville with 21. He’s coming off the game-winning goal against CF Montreal in midweek. Nashville likes to play on the counter, and Mukhtar thrives in transition moments. It will be key for Atlanta’s midfield and backline to have good communication and eyes on Mukhtar at all times, especially when the 5-Stripes lose the ball.
Another player to watch for Nashville is C.J. Sapong. The forward is tied for the team lead with three goals and has found a great partnership with Mukhtar this year. Keeping those two under control will go a long way for Atlanta United to bring home three points.
Match the Energy and Control the Tempo
Another key to earning a victory on Saturday night will be matching the energy that a full house can provide. GEODIS Park is the largest soccer-specific stadium in the country and while Atlanta United has already played a match there, this one is expected to have close to full capacity. The 5-Stripes need to match that energy and intensity that Nashville SC like to play with and keep that high level up for 90 minutes. Another key will be to control the tempo. That’s where the midfield partnership of Franco Ibarra and captain Matheus Rossetto comes in to play. The dynamic duo has found a good understanding in midfield and are feeding off each other to help Atlanta gain control of the midfield. Rossetto is one of the most accurate passers in the league, while Ibarra has brought some toughness and bite to the middle of the park. Atlanta have had 53% possession or more in nine of 11 MLS matches this season so far. Saturday will provide another test in controlling that tempo and giving the 5-Stripes the best chance to emerge victorious.
Fans can tune in nationally on FOX and FOX Deportes on Saturday night with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. ET. Click here to learn all the ways to watch, listen and live stream Saturday's match.