Atlanta United’s return from Leagues Cup play went surprisingly well with a 2-0 away (!) victory over the Seattle Sounders, but as of now that result is no more than a one-off. That could change, though, this weekend against Nashville SC.
The Coyotes’ were in Leagues Cup action last weekend, losing 10-9 in penalties in the final to Inter Miami. Despite Nashville’s unhappy ending, its run to get to the final was quite impressive, with Gary Smith’s side knocking out Club America, Monterrey, and FC Cincinnati en route. As surprising as Nashville beating those teams is, even more surprising was that the scoreline for all of its games wasn’t 1-0. Instead, Nashville’s previously unknown attacking firepower made an appearance with 16 goals scored across 7 Leagues Cup games. Hany Mukhtar was the main man of course, tallying 2 goals and 5 assists to go along with an MLS-high 13 goals and 7 assist in regular season play. This time, though, it wasn’t just the Mukhtar and pray tactics usually employed by Nashville. Summer DP signing Sam Surridge added a new dimension to Nashville’s frontline with a 6 foot 3’ frame that gave endless headaches to opposing backlines. That resulted in 3 goals in 207 minutes from the Englishman, and more space for the rest of Nashville’s attack to operate in. There were no negative repercussions defensivley either, as Nashville’s rock-solid backline conceded multiple goals in just two games all tournament (and that was to none other than Club America and Toluca).
In short, it might be time for the rest of the Eastern Conference to watch out for Nashville. Now that it has the DP striker it desperately needed to complement Mukhtar and its league-best defense (22 goals conceded in 24 MLS games) remains intact, the Coyotes could be posed for a MLS Cup run and will almost definitely make Saturday night a demanding evening for the Five Stripes.
Speaking of Atlanta, its win over Seattle was a happy surprise that kept it solidly in the top seven of the East, in 7th on 38 points (tied with Nashville) and six clear of the play-in zone. The general chaos of the East means Gonzalo Pineda’s side is only two points away from third and with a good run of form could even aspire to reach 2nd place. Such run of form requires results from a tricky week of games on the way, starting with Nashville, followed by Cincinnati midweek and a trip to Dallas on the weekend. If Atlanta does manage to string together some victories, any doubts that the Seattle win was a one off will be firmly squashed and the Five Stripes’ will be set up as well as possible for the final stretch.
Atlanta trails the overall series with a 2W-3D-4L record, and hasn’t won since 2020. The good guys most recently lost 3-1 in Tennessee back in April.
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: Atlanta United 2-2 Nashville SC
Atlanta United won’t be able to kickstart a winning streak against a newly reinforced Nashville, but it will stay unbeaten post-Leagues Cup thanks to strikes from Giakoumakis and Almada to cancel out a Surridge brace.