Preview: Nashville SC vs Atlanta United

It’s been a whirlwind week for Nashville SC. After their 2-0 win over Toronto FC on Wednesday, head coach Gary Smith was fired after seven years in charge of the club. The move was a seismic one, as the Coyotes part with the only manager they’ve known as a professional club. Can interim manager Rumba Munthali give them a boost against a struggling Atlanta United in a Rivalry Week matchup?

Head-to-head

Atlanta United

12th (East) | 12 points | 3W-3D-6L | +1 GD |
Last match: 2-1 loss at FC Cincinnati
Power Rankings: 16th

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Atlanta come into this match with struggles of their own. Manager Gonzalo Pineda is in the hot seat, with questions around his future circulating as their poor form continues. And make no mistake, their form has been bad.

They’ve averaged just one point per game so far this year. Their winless streak extends to seven matches in MLS play, with just three wins so far on the season. Despite one of the most expansive rosters in the league, they’ve looked mostly pedestrian.

Thiago Almada, one of the brightest young stars in the league and the centerpiece of the team, has struggled to find his top form this year. He’s scored three goals, but only has notched one assist in a team that desperately needs an attacking hub.

He’s out against Nashville after suffering an injury in the 16th minute against Cincinnati midweek. Giorgios Giakoumakis, Atlanta’s No. 9 and one of the best strikers in MLS is also out.

Without either of their two primary attackers availaible, Pineda will have to turn to Jamal Thiaré up front and Xhande Silva, who themselves are returning from their own injuries.

Nashville fans will recognize a familiar face on Atlanta’s roster: Dax McCarty. The first captain in Nashville SC history, McCarty will play against Nashville for the first time ever, returning to Geodis Park after signing with Atlanta as a free agent this winter. He hasn’t played nearly as central a role for the Five Stripes, playing just 232 minutes in six appearances, and starting just two games. With Atlanta struggling, though, he could come in and provide a steadying presence in midfield.

Nashville SC

10th (East) | 14 points | 3W-5D-4L | -3 GD |
Last match: 2-0 win vs Toronto FC
Power Rankings: 24th

The vibes around Nashville SC are completely different than they were on Wednesday. Gary Smith is gone, taking assistant coach Steve Guppy with him and ushering in a period of uncertainty. Interim Rumba Munthali hasn’t coached above a U19 level, and with just two days at the helm, it’s unlikely that he’ll make any drastic changes before Saturday.

With Walker Zimmerman, Tyler Boyd and Shaq Moore back in the squad, Munthali has close to a full-strength roster to choose from. He’ll run into rotation issues – Aníbal Godoy played 90 minutes on Wednesday, and at 34 years old may not be able to play another 90 on Saturday.

But the core of this group, however much it has underperformed, is still in place. Even with Nashville’s struggles this season, and even with the managerial change, they’ll still feel confident they can get a result at home against a poor Atlanta United team.

Pre-match quotes

Pod Picks

Ben Wright

Score: Nashville 2-0 Atlanta
Scorers: Surridge (x2)
MOTM: Surridge
Bold Prediction: The new manager bump is real, y’all.

Chris Ivey

Score: Nashville 3-0 Atlanta
Scorers: Shaffelburg, Surridge and Boyd
MOTM: Shaffelburg
Bold Prediction: Atlanta control 60% possession, but they fall into Nashville’s trap and allow loads of counterattacking space. The Castle is raucous on the dawn of a new day.

Jeff Remlinger

Score: Nashville 3-1 Atlanta
Scorers: Mukhtar (x2), Surridge
MOTM: Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: The style of play looks very similar to what we’re used to. But new energy in the players and fans leads to a confident performance and easy win.

Ronan Briscoe

Score: Nashville 2-0 Atlanta
Scorers: Mukhtar (x2)
MOTM: Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: The new manager bounce lifts Nashville above the playoff line, as Nashville also extends its home unbeaten streak against Atlanta to six.

Valair Shabilla

Score: Nashville 2-1 Atlanta
Scorers: Mukhtar (x2)
MOTM: Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Mukhtar will have an MVP like performance for the first time this season.

Fan Forecast

Match info

Teams: Nashville SC vs Atlanta United
Referees: Drew Fischer (Ref), Lyes Arfa (AR1), Mike Nickerson (AR2), Alexis Da Silva (Fourth), Chris Penso (VAR), Craig Lowry (AVAR)
Odds: NSH (-110), Draw (+265), ATL (+265)
Date: Saturday, May 18, 2024
Time: 12:45 pm CDT, GEODIS Park, Nashville, TN
TV: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV, FOX
TV Commentary: Keith Costigan & Maurice Edu (English – Apple), Mike Watts & Jamie Watson (English – FOX), Alejandro Figueredo & Eduardo Biscayart (Spanish)
Radio: 104.5 The Zone
Radio Commentary: Will Boling (English)
Forecast: 75°/62°. 73º at kickoff. Mostly cloudy. 70% chance of rain. 88% humidity. 2-4 mph wind.

Author: Ben Wrightis the Director of Soccer Content and a Senior MLS Contributor for Broadway Sports covering Nashville SC and the US National Team. Previously Ben was the editor and a founder of Speedway Soccer, where he has covered Nashville SC and their time in USL before journeying to Major League Soccer since 2018. Raised in Louisville, KY Ben grew up playing before a knee injury ended his competitive career. When he is not talking soccer he is probably producing music, drinking coffee or hanging out with his wife and kids. Mastodon

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