Rivalry wins always feel good.
This one felt even better.
Nashville SC secured a 2-0 victory at rival Atlanta United FC on Saturday. The win vaulted Nashville into a tie for second place in the Eastern Conference ahead of a pivotal clash with fellow Eastern Conference contender New York City FC this Friday.
After a pair of tough encounters with Atlanta this season that ended in 2-2 draws, Head Coach Gary Smith says he was delighted to earn such a massive win away from home.
“To be able to come here and to win is immensely satisfying,” Smith said. “They’re our rivals; they’ve got the better of us on occasions. I do think that we’re slowly but surely developing and creating an environment and a group here that should be sustainable. But none of us are sure what the future brings in terms of injuries, form, and anything else that can happen within a soccer environment. We do have an awful lot of respect through the rivalry of what these guys are capable of. They have some immensely talented players, and I’m sure this will only put some fire in their bellies next time we meet.”
Striker Daniel Ríos marked his first start since returning from injury with a goal in first-half stoppage time. He received a brilliant through ball from Dan Lovitz before calmly slotting the ball past goalkeeper Brad Guzan. Nashville extended its lead in the final minute of second-half stoppage time when Nashville SC goalkeeper Joe Willis played a perfect feed from his own box to a bounding Randall Leal, who tapped the ball into the empty net after Guzan couldn’t get back in time from a previous corner kick.
Ríos said the goal meant even more after all he has been through to get back to the pitch.
“For me, it means everything,” Ríos said. “It was really, really hard. I was injured for a long time. I wanted to be back so bad. I worked so hard for this special moment, so it’s everything for me to score my first goal in my first start of the season.”
Nashville SC enters the stretch run of the season with four home matches and nine road matches, including four straight on the road in September. Smith says this road victory should give his team confidence as they enter a road-heavy stretch to end the regular season.
“Today will be a monkey off everyone’s back,” Smith said. “It’ll give all of the guys huge confidence to have won here against our local rivals and a top team. Hopefully, as we go back home for Friday’s game against New York City, and then into a long stretch, there’ll be something in the back of their mind that says, ‘OK, we’ve shown some excellent form at home, and we know if things don’t always go our way, that we’re capable of earning all three points entering difficult surroundings.’ Because I’ll be honest: I’m not sure they come much more difficult than this.”
The Boys in Gold are back in action this Friday night taking on New York City FC at Nissan Stadium at 6:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are on sale here.