ATLANTA, GA – Nashville SC came back from two goals down to draw with Atlanta United FC in thrilling fashion. The result, in front of 40,748 fans, leaves Nashville as one of two unbeaten sides in Major League Soccer heading into the international break.
After a couple outings in a 4-4-2, head coach Gary Smith returned to what could be called his preferred eleven. Jhonder Cádiz played alone up front, with Hany Mukhtar returning to the XI in the number 10 role.
With the return of the 4-4-1-1 came the return of the slow start. In the sixth minute, Atlanta center-back Miles Robinson pinged a long ball over the top into Nashville’s box. Walker Zimmerman failed to win the initial header, and Dave Romney was slow to follow up, allowing Marcelino Moreno to pounce on the loose ball and bundle a shot through goalkeeper Joe Willis’s legs. It was a rare mistake from Romney, and a really poor goal to concede so early away from home.
Nashville thought they had equalized in the 21st minute through Cádiz, but Alex Muyl was rightly judged to be offside in the buildup and the goal was ruled off.
Atlanta once again started the half quickly. Forward Erik Lopez ghosted across the goal to finish unconventionally past an onrushing Joe Willis. Against a surging Atlanta, and in front of the largest crowd in global soccer this weekend, it seemed destined to be the first loss of Nashville’s 2021 season.
Hany Mukhtar had other ideas.
The German got on the end of a cutback cross from Dan Lovitz, controlling well before smacking a driven finish with his weaker left foot to pull Nashville a goal back.
Just three minutes later, Mukhtar once again found the back of the net. The ball took a bit of a fortunate bounce off of Dom Badji, but found Mukhtar in the right place at the right time to convert from close range.
Nashville finished out the match against an Atlanta onslaught, with Dom Badji hobbled after a collision with Brad Guzan. The striker stayed on the field to close out the result, a 2-2 draw that felt more like a win for Nashville.
After Orlando City’s loss to New York Red Bulls earlier on Saturday, the result leaves Nashville and Seattle as the sole undefeated sides in MLS. The league will go on international break for the next two weeks, with Nashville returning to action on June 18 on the road against Red Bulls.
1. Nashville start slowly once again. On the road against Atlanta is perhaps more excusable than at home against Cincinnati or Montreál, but Atlanta came out of the gates with more intent and energy. Nashville looked flat in the first few minutes of both halves and were punished both times. Both goals were conceded softly, and overall the defensive performance was not one of Nashville’s finest in MLS.
2. Nashville continue to create chances. Nashville took double digit shots again, and they’ve done so in each of their seven matches so far this season. Chasing the game, they outshot Atlanta 14-12, and while the game state certainly impacted their attacking output, it’s hard not to notice that they’ve been much more intentional about their work in the final third.
3. Hany Mukhtar returns to the lineup with a statement performance. The first DP in Nashville history was dropped from the starting lineup for the last three matches, with Gary Smith opting for a 4-4-2 shape that left him without a natural position.
Shots: ATL 12 – 14 NSH
Shots on goal: ATL 5 – 5 NSH
Expected goals: ATL 1.36 – 1.23 NSH
Goals: ATL 2 -2 NSH
Possession: ATL 62% – 38% NSH
Fouls: ATL 12 – 11 NSH
Yellow cards: ATL 1 – 3 NSH
Red cards: ATL 0 – 0 NSH
Atlanta: Guzan; Robinson, Sosa, Walkes; Lennon, Mulraney (Barco 58′), Hyndman, Bello; Lopez, Moreno (Ibarra 69′); Martínez
Nashville: Willis; Johnston, Zimmerman, Romney, Lovitz; McCarty, Godoy (LaGrassa 77′); Muyl (Sapong 60′), Mukhtar, Leal (Haakenson 77′); Cádiz (Badji 71′)