On a rain soaked pitch that felt more appropriate for an Olympic swim trial than a soccer match at times, Atlanta United outpaced Nashville SC 3-1 in the Five Stripes’ first preseason match of 2018.
The first half saw only a few chances.
In the 15th minute, Barco and Nagbe nearly set the Atlanta United fan-sphere on fire. Barco dribbled in from the left and danced past two defenders before laying the ball off for Nagbe. Nagbe blasted a shot that skimmed the grass the entire way before nearly breaking the left post in half.
It was Barco and Nagbe once again attempting to break the internet fifteen minutes later. Nagbe volleyed a (long!) pass from a corner kick over the bar from 20 yards away, Barco immediately followed by pushing a shot just wide after a an excellent ball in from Miguel Almiron.
Josef Martinez came to close to executing his trademark “score from an angle that no other human on earth could even fathom” move in the 40th minute. However, the Nashville keeper took the brunt of the blast without his arm being ripped clear from his body.
The half ended with Atlanta still looking for it’s first goal of 2018.
They would have to do it without Barco, who spent 45 minutes on the pitch in his first appearance in the Five Stripes.
Atlanta finally found a break in the 58’ thanks to a timely assist from.....the pitch.
A Nashville back pass ran into a river of water and came to a standstill at the edge of the 18-yard-box. The ball sat on a tee for Martinez who slotted the ball into the bottom right corner with ease. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a breakthrough in a sloppy game.
Out of nowhere, Nashville struck back in the 64th minute. An excellent counter ended with Ropapa Mensah scoring the first goal in Nashville Soccer Club history to make it 1-1.
Nashville had ten minutes to celebrate their first goal until Nagbe dampened the celebration in the 74th minute. One of the most expensive acquistions in MLS history dribbled more than half the pitch uncontested before laying the ball off for Brandon Vazquez on the right for a good chipped finish.
Atlanta added another goal to their total four minutes later when a cross deflected directly back to Romario Williams. Williams tapped the ball into the back of the net for his first goal with Atlanta United and the final goal of the night.
In a game that didn’t offer a whole lot of answers on the major questions of the off-season, manager Tata Martino seemed happy with the first trial run of the year.
”The opponent was intense today and they pressed us high so we weren’t able to do everything we wanted to,” Martino said. “But they forced us into playing a high level game with a high tempo and we got to see how the new players are working together.”
In all 22 players took the field for Atlanta, including seven players who weren’t on last year’s roster. There wasn’t much to learn from any individual’s performance tonight, but Tata stressed the importance of getting high level minutes before the season begins.
“In the first half we created a few chances. With the level of players we have, maybe we could have created a few more but I thought it was good to get those guys (Barco, Nagbe and company) playing together,” Martino said. “In the second half it was good to get some of the younger players in. It’s always good to get them those minutes to show that you have confidence in them.”
The win is step one on Atlanta United’s march towards an undefeated season. The Five Stripes take the field again on Feb. 17 when they travel to take on the Columbus Crew at 5 p.m.