Atlanta United hosted Nashville SC on Saturday in the second MLS meeting on the season between the two regional rivals. On a night celebrating 90s Atlanta and the debut of the club's new 404 Kit, Atlanta United put on a golden performance behind Xande Silva and Saba Lobjanidze's first career MLS goals in their first appearances in Atlanta. Thiago Almada and Miles Robinson also scored and Atlanta United defeated Nashville SC in an emphatic 4-0 win at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The three points bring Atlanta United’s total to 41 in the table, which surpasses the team's total from 2022, with eight matches remaining in the regular season. Atlanta United moves to sixth place and within two points of second place in the Eastern Conference with the result.
After an exciting opening 25 minutes that saw moments for both sides, it was Xande Silva in just his second career MLS match who opened the scoring. In a play that started with Giorgos Giakoumakis posting up a Nashville defender and controlling a pass to ignite Atlanta’s attack, Silva received a precise long ball from Almada. With his first touch, Silva made contact that sent an incredible low shot into the far side of the net. The Portugese winger celebrated his first career goal with the 5-Stripes with a smooth back flip near the sideline in front of cheering supporters.
"It's always good to play in front of these fans in this stadium," Silva said. "It's an amazing stadium. I just did my job. My job is to score goals and help the team win. That's what I did."
Silva and Almada would connect again for the team's second goal. In the first minute of the second half, Giakoumakis intercepted a Nashville pass then crossed the ball to Silva. The winger made a nifty pass with his right foot, to his left side, where Almada was making a run. Atlanta's new no. 10 coolly lofted the ball over Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis to make it 2-0 Atlanta in the 46th minute.
Atlanta's third goal came from center back, Miles Robinson. On a corner kick from Almada, Robinson skied to knock in a nasty header. The goal marked Robinson's first of the season and second in his MLS career. Almada earned his second assist on the night, which brought his season total to 13, an individual career high.
After a career performance, Silva's night ended in the 61st minute. He was subbed off and entered Saba Lobjanidze, Atlanta's latest designated player signing, who made his club debut. And in the final moments, it was "Saba Time." The Georgian winger got in on the scoring himself on a give-and-go with Almada in tight space inside the box. Lobjanidze backheeled the shot through in the 87th minute, then celebrated by pointing to an imaginary watch on his wrist, to introduce himself to the 17s in a big way.
"Everything is really top [in MLS]," Lobjanidze said. "I want to say also there's really good tempo in MLS. It's not an easy league."
The post took away two opportunities for Atlanta in the opening 16 minutes of the match. First, Almada found Giakoumakis with a driven ball in behind Nashville’s backline. The Greek striker brought it down and put a shot past Willis in the eighth minute, but the ball clanged off the far post right into the arms of the goalie. Later, Caleb Wiley received a vertical pass up the right flank from Edwin Mosquera. The Homegrown crossed it into the box for Almada who was running on, but the midfielder's shot also hit the post and bounced too far out of the reach of him or Wiley to collect the rebound.
Nashville nearly struck first in the 20th minute when Atlanta United had a bad takeaway deep in their own defensive third. Nashville's Hany Mukhtar intercepted a pass from Atlanta's Tristan Muyumba that positioned the current Golden Boot leader in a 1v1 situation with Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan. Mukhtar tried to curl a shot into the upper corner and the attempt missed high.
Guzan ended up with one save on the night. In the 15th minute, Nashville had a dangerous opportunity on a direct free kick from about 25 yards out. Mukhtar put it on frame and Atlanta's big bald wall made the stop with his feet to keep the visitors off the board. It was the second consecutive match that the 5-Stripes held an MLS opponent scoreless and the team's eighth clean sheet on the season.
Saturday featured two conference stars who are likely candidates for the Landon Donovan MVP Award in Almada and Mukhtar. Almada outshined Mukhtar this time around, finishing the match with a goal and two assists. He also created nine chances for the 5-Stripes, which is a club record. Meanwhile, Atlanta's defense held Mukhtar to three shots, 0.34 expected goals and just one chance created.
'I'm just pleased seeing Thiago happy on the field and Thiago enjoying playing around good players. I'm just happy about that and delighted as many fans were today," Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda said. "It was very good to see that type of performance. We're very proud of what he's doing, especially because he's very humble. He's attributing all of his success to his teammates."
Fresh off a 2-0 win over Seattle Sounders last weekend, the reigning MLS Coach of the Matchday went with the same starting XI he did in Seattle. Muyumba and Silva both made their second straight MLS starts. Luis Abram also started alongside Robinson as the two center backs.
The match Saturday was characterized by a celebration of the 90s. Atlanta United debuted the 404 Kit, the club's third new kit this season, which was inspired by Atlanta's cultural and global impact from the 90s up until now. Grammy-award winning artist Monique was the Golden Spike hitter, Atlanta United wore "Atlanta Influences Everything" T-shirts during the team arrival, Goodie Mob made a special surprise performance during halftime and the music played by DJ EU throughout the night featured many 90s jams.
Shots on target