Atlanta United will be reminded of its dreadful collapse and the subsequent ending of its Open Cup dreams at the hands of Nashville SC far sooner than it would have liked. Just a week and a half after that 3-2 loss, the Five Stripes will be back on GEODIS Park, and this time with revenge on its mind.
Since we last saw them Nashville managed a 2-0 loss to a ten-man Houston Dynamo and a 2-1 win over CF Montreal. The latter of which was played Wednesday, so Nashville will be coming into Saturday on three days rest compared to Atlanta’s week off. That won’t make the Five Stripes’ task much easier - Nashville has won three straight at home in all comps and is yet to lose at the newly opened GEODIS Park. It has sprung up to 6th in the Western Conference on 18 points with a perfectly even goal differential thanks to a middling attack and one of the better defenses in the league. Nashville’s 13 goals scored sits 9th-worst across the entire league while its 13 conceded is 9th best. That doesn't mean Nashville is without final third firepower - Hany Mukhtar (3g, 2a) and CJ Sapong (3g, 2a) form one of the most dangerous attacking partnerships in the league but lack much of a supporting cast. Gary Smith’s defense first tactics don’t lead to much of a scoring output either and in turn four of Nashville’s five victories have been decided by one goal.
Atlanta’s draw over New England wasn’t a bad result, but it wasn’t too satisfying either. It leaves the Five Stripes in a bit of a limbo as it sits 7th, four points below 6th and two ahead of 8th. A win would take Atlanta right back into the mix for a home playoff game (the Five Stripes have a game in hand on everyone above it except NYCFC) but a loss could see the weekend end with the good guys on the wrong side of the red line. With home games against Columbus and Miami coming up next, a first winning streak of the season isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: Nashville SC 1-1 Atlanta United
Nashville will take the lead early via Sapong but Atlanta will fight back to one-all thanks to Araujo in a back-and-forth ninety minutes that leaves both sides wanting more.