Nashville SC rounded out Phase 2 of the MLS return to play in style. An offensive explosion saw the Boys In Gold score four (yes, you read that right) goals against a struggling Atlanta United side to claim three points and a much-needed confidence boost.
Head coach Gary Smith made just one change to his starting lineup, bringing on Abu Danladi for the injured Randall Leal, and naming Alan Winn to the bench for the first time since the season opener on February 29.
Gary Smith said in his pre-match press conference that he wanted to see a forward score, and he got his wish early. In the first minute, Dax McCarty flicked on a Hany Mukhtar corner into the path of Dom Badji, who made no mistake from close range.
Atlanta looked like they might pull back into the match. A foul from Alistair Johnston set up a set piece just outside their box, and veteran Jeff Larentowicz flicked a ball from Ezequiel Barco past a stranded Joe Willis to put the two sides on level terms.
Nashville responded well, though, and regained their lead nearly in the 28th minute. McCarty bounced on a loose ball in midfield, with Badji flicking it on into Mukhtar’s path. The DP brought it down well and rode a challenge before finishing calmly to the far post for his first tally in MLS.
McCarty again was at the heart of things eight minutes later, getting on the end of a cross from Dan Lovitz. The captain headed home from close range for his first Nashville goal, aided by a deflection.
It was more of the same from Nashville in the second half. The expansion side took advantage of space behind Atlanta’s defense to create all kinds of problems for the visitors. In the 57th minute, the Boys In Gold added a fourth. Dax McCarty played a ball over the top for Abu Danladi, who rounded Guzan before slotting home for Nashville’s fourth.
Atlanta kept things interesting, with George Bello smashing a shot home following a poor giveaway in midfield. Dave Romney prevented another goal from going in, laying his body on the line to block a shot from point blank range. However, as the half went on, Nashville continued to get in behind Atlanta, nearly scoring on a couple other occasions.
The win was Nashville’s first multi-goal performance of their inaugural season, and saw four new scorers get on the board. Nashville have scored nine goals in their debut season, and each one has been scored by a different player.
“[The win] really caps off what has been a really good run for us,” said Smith. “We’ve shown we’re good without the ball, but the one thing we’ve lacked is that real cutting edge in the final third.”
The win pushes Nashville into ninth place in the East, with 12 points from 10 matches. Next up is a trip to first-placed Columbus Crew, who have collected an impressive 24 points from 11 matches. With a multi-goal win under their belts, Nashville should be confident as they prepare to face the Crew.
Asked about a quote from Miles Robinson in the buildup to the match, McCarty was frank.
“A little bit of unsolicited old man advice for Miles Robinson. I think he’s a fantastic player… I would say to him, talent is only so valuable. It’s only going to take you so far. When you’re going through a tough time, things like character, things like hard work, things like humility go a long way to get your team out of a tough time.”
Shots: Nashville 9 – 10 Atlanta
Shots on goal: Nashville 6 – 3 Atlanta
Expected goals: Nashville 1.41 – 1.01 Atlanta
Goals: Nashville 4 – 2 Atlanta
Possession: Nashville 39.8% – 60.2% Atlanta
Yellow Cards: Nashville 0 – 1 Atlanta
Red Cards: Nashville 0 – 0 Atlanta