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Saba Lobjanidze: For me, it’s the biggest stadium in the world

Saba and Xande Silva both open their accounts in the Benz in style

MLS: Nashville FC at Atlanta United FC Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was fun.

If honesty prevails, this may be one of the better wins for an Atlanta United team in...well...years. And guess what, I’ve said that quite often recently.

Yes, the team was plagued by a spat of losses in all competitions - including the bounce from the Leagues Cup - after their outstanding win against Philadelphia Union. But since then, the summer transfer window has come and gone in full force, and the reinforcements are proving vital for Gonzalo Pineda’s side.

Since MLS restarted play last weekend, Atlanta has won both their matches with a +6 goal differential. They defeated Seattle Sounders away 2-0, and walloped Nashville SC at home 4-0; the country city’s worst loss ever.

Saturday night was the debut of the 404 kit, Xande Silva in the Benz, and Saba Lobjanidze in a Five Stripes jersey - also in the Benz. The result was an absolute rout against Nashville, and Gonzalo Pineda’s squad has put together two of the most impressive wins since he arrived in summer of 2021.

Lagerway and Bocanegra’s transfer window has embodied what I often referred to as the one wild card left in the season. Just because a team was steamrolling through the league prior to early July, doesn’t mean things can’t change come mid-August. And that’s exactly what’s happened for Atlanta United. The team is now set up to finish the season strong, while also prepping for what looks to be a busy winter.

Ultimately though, the hard schedule at the end of the Leagues Cup that we all spoke about has been handled thoroughly by Pineda and the Five Stripes thus far. There is still a ton of soccer left to be played, but the initial signs of the new version of Atlanta United has been...exciting. They absolutely destroyed Nashville, and two of the four goals came from guys who have never played a match in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The team got off to a strong start, barring a quick bit of pressure by Nashville. Brad Guzan made a brilliant kick-save early on, and Tristan Muyumba’s only wayward pass of the season was sent safely wide by alleged-possible-MVP Hany Mukhtar.

It was all Atlanta United from that moment on, and it would be Thiago Almada who connected to Xande Silva to open up the Portuguese winger’s scoring account int he first half.

The half came and went with Atlanta up by one, but it didn’t take long for the second goal to come.

The vibe in the Benz in front of 67.5K people felt really good at that point, but why stop there? Let Miles Robinson feast, too.

Newcomer Saba Lobjanidze - who has only been in the United States for a relative few hours - was subbed on and immediately put a shot on goal.

But that wasn’t the one. He then put another on goal, and finally a third. And the third time’s a charm.

And that settled it. The Five Stripes laid it out on Nashville SC in what was another statement win. 4-0 was the scoreline, but this match could have easily been 7-0. Giakoumakis and Almada both had shots off the same exact spot on the post, and Almada had another that squeaked by the outside of the woodwork.

It was a dominant performance, and one Atlanta will look to capitalize on as they look forward to Supporter’s Shield debutants Cincinnati FC on Wednesday. Take a look at what Gonzalo Pineda, Thiago Almada, Saba Lobjanidze, and Xande Silva all had to say after the match Saturday night, and be sure to leave your comments below!

Atlanta United Head Coach Gonzalo Pineda:

On what he contributes the team’s performance to:

“The players. Definitely the players. There are many different tactics, and there are periods of time when we will rest, but the players need to perform and make plays, and to me, they did that. 3.79 in xG, nine clear chances, about 1.1 in xG [for Nashville], I mean, those are good stats, good numbers, and now a clean sheet two times in a row. The last time we did that was a long time ago against CF Montreal, so I am very happy about all of that and I thought it was a very good performance from everyone, top to bottom. All the credit to the players.”

On what is allowing the team to have free-flowing moves and score more goals:

“Listen, I think it’s the same. We talked a little bit about the players, the character of the players, and the type of performances they are putting together, the little cohesions, the pairings. Xande [Silva] and Thiago [Almada], who are very cohesive, Tristan [Muyumba] with [Matheus] Rossetto are very cohesive, on the right side Brooks [Lennon] and Edwin [Mosquera] are very good, and now [Giorgos Giakoumakis] with pretty much everyone around. Caleb [Wiley] has paired with Xande and Thiago, the back four, the pair of center backs, everyone is just working well in those little units that are being created. But, I think this is what comes out of all of them understanding time and space, and it was really good.”

On what helped the team break through Nashville’s defensive block:

“When we talk about attacking, everything starts from the bottom. I don’t remember which goal it was, but it was a great play by Brad [Guzan], where we started from the back by disrupting [Nashville SC]. I think it might have been the first goal. It was a great play where we were patient on the ball, disrupt them, and then the play finished with the first goal. I think the way we are playing out of the back, the way we are building allows us to create space higher on the field, in between lines, and wider, and then we are attacking very well once we are in those areas, because we have good players, basically. Once Thiago [Almada] is on the front foot in between the lines, you know he is going to create danger. When Xande [Silva] is out wide, or inside combining with Thiago, you know he is going to create danger. 1-on-1, 2-on-1, Brooks [Lennon] and Edwin [Mosquera] on the right side, all of that will create danger. Caleb [Wiley] overlapping [Giorgos Giakoumakis] inside the box, no one person will score all the goals for us. I think we are solid in that part of the field, but everything is because of how good we are playing out of the back and giving our attacking players plenty of space.”

On two consecutive clean sheets and the center back pairing:

“I wouldn’t just put everything on [Miles Robinson] and [Luis Abram]. They did great, very good. A couple of tackles and a couple covers they did today, using their speed to recover against other fast players, it was pretty awesome. But, I have always said, our attack starts with Brad [Guzan] and how we start from the back, so the same thing on the other side. Everything starts with [Giorgos Giakoumakis] putting in effort to press, Thiago [Almada], Xande [Silva], Edwin [Mosquera] being aggressive in the moments we have to press, but not making it easy for the opponent to have good passes into their attackers. I think today, [Hany] Mukhtar wasn’t happy on the field. He wasn’t feeling comfortable, because most of the balls he touched, he was already under pressure, it wasn’t easy for him to pass, and he wasn’t able to receive and turn, so I think he was uncomfortable. It was part of the gameplan, but everything starts higher on the field. Of course, the back four, the midfielders, and Brad were amazing, and I think Brad made a couple really good saves. But for me, it is always a collective effort in both attacking and defending.”

Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada:

On having players like Edwin, Xande and GG next to him:

“It’s going well. I think between all of us we have a good attack. Everyone is trying to be at their best level and it’s pushing us forward.”

On if he feels like he needed a break to come back refreshed:

“No. I don’t think I needed it, but I think the break was good. Right now we’re doing things well, but with this we can’t be satisfied. We have to continue on this path.”

On how to carry on what happened tonight:

“I think we will recover. We know Wednesday we have a very important game. We will take on that game with the same motivation that we have been.”

On if the team will achieve more this season with new players:

“As I said, I think every player is giving their best right now and we can’t be satisfied with where we are now, we have to keep pushing and keep fighting to be as high as we can be in the standings.”

Atlanta United winger Saba Lobjanidze:

On if he knew his first goal would be a backheel goal:

“Yeah (chuckles). I never score backheel goal before. But, first I want to say it’s a great day because we get the three points. Nashville had the same points as we have in the standings, now we have three points more.”

On his first experience in MLS:

“Yeah it was really cool, really good. Amazing stadium. For me, it’s the biggest stadium in the world. Atmosphere was amazing. Really good experience and start.”

On combining with players like Thiago Almada and Giorgos Giakoumakis:

“Thiago is a very high quality player. It’s very easy to play with a player like him. I trained only once with him and played only 20 minutes with him today, but I was really enjoying to play with him. He’s such a good player and he has a bright future.”

On what his celebration meant:

“It’s my time (laughs).”

On his understanding of the tactics after just coming in this week:

“When you are a professional player, it’s very easy to understand the main tactics. All players played so good tonight that it was easy to come in and play.”

On if he was surprised by anything tonight on the pitch:

“No, not really. I want to say the tempo was really good. It’s not an easy league to play in.”

Atlanta United winger Xande Silva:

On mood around the team after the win:

“Everyone is happy. It’s the second win. We didn’t concede any goals. I think everyone is happy and excited. We work every day for that and that’s what we’ve been doing.”

On the crown after the first goal and how the fans help the team:

“It’s always good to play in front of these fans in this stadium. It’s an amazing stadium. I just did my job. My job is to score goals and help the team win. That’s what I did.”

On how to keep momentum into the next match:

“We just keep working. The results will come. Everyone knows hard work pays off.”

On difference maker last two games:

“I think we are working very hard. We have a good group of players that are talented. I think that’s important. When we all work together we have this type of job (result).”