Preseason has been in full swing since January, but this weekend is the moment Five Stripe fans have been anticipating since the final whistle in 2017. On Saturday, Atlanta United will take the field for their first preseason match of 2018 as they travel to Tennessee to face USL side and soon-to-be MLS club, Nashville SC. The contest will mark Nashville’s first-ever game just as Atlanta United competed in their own inaugural match just one year ago.
The match kicks off at 4:00 p.m. ET at First Tennessee Park. It will be a full house as tickets are already sold out, but make sure to follow ATL UTD on social to keep up with all the action in the first preseason game of 2018.
After an explosive inaugural season in Major League Soccer, Atlanta United heads into chapter two with a chip on their shoulder after falling in dramatic fashion via penalties in their first-ever playoff match. Now, with a year under their belt and some reinforcements added in the offseason, ATL UTD hopes to emerge in 2018 even stronger than before.
Returning from last season and headlining the Atlanta United attack are two members of the 2017 MLS Best XI, forward Josef Martinez and midfield maestro Miguel Almirón – who also earned the title of MLS Newcomer of the Year. However, some new faces and added firepower fans will be watching out for will be U.S. international Darlington Nagbe and 18-year-old Argentine Ezequiel Barco – the league’s all-time record signing. While preseason can often mean experimentation in the matchday squad, this could be the first glimpse of the new additions in the red, black and gold.
While their prowess in the final third dominated the headlines in 2017, their performance on the other side of the ball impressed as the season went on. Atlanta recorded eight clean sheets in their last eleven matches and boasted a +30 goal differential during the regular season, ranking fourth-best all-time in MLS. And of course Atlanta United’s inaugural season was highlighted by their unwavering support, averaging a league record 48,000 fans per match. While the match this weekend isn’t in Atlanta, Nashville is just a few hours up the road, so you can expect to see plenty of red, black and gold in the crowd for Saturday’s contest.
Recently announced as the next expansion side to join Major League Soccer, the soccer buzz has taken over the scene in Nashville. With Saturday marking the first day Nashville SC touches the pitch, it’s no surprise the seats are sold out at First Tennessee Park.
With a plan to enter the league in 2019 or 2020, the club will begin its journey in the United Soccer League (USL), also kicks off their regular season in March. Atlanta United will serve as a telling first opponent especially since they will need to prepare to face Atlanta United’s USL side ATL UTD 2 during the regular season.
Steering the wheel at Nashville is head coach Gary Smith, a native of Harlow, England who led the Colorado Rapids to the 2010 MLS Cup championship. He also has a connection to Atlanta United, spending a short time as an Atlanta United Academy assistant coach during his transition into the role. His group of players just hit the field at the end of January for their first training session, but as raw as the team may be, Atlanta United proved last year that building chemistry in a shortened period of time is not impossible. With a full house behind them and a team looking to make a statement, it won’t be a cake walk for ATL UTD. You can view Nashville’s full roster here.