Nashville SC is set to renew a budding Southern soccer rivalry on Saturday when it heads down to Georgia to take on Atlanta United FC.
Riding a six-match unbeaten streak, the Boys in Gold will look to extend that streak in their last match before the two-week international break. They’ll do so against an Atlanta United team that is unbeaten in its last three matches
Here’s everything you need to know about Saturday’s matinee:
Date: Saturday, May 29
Time: 2:00 p.m. CT (Pre-Match Show), 2:30 p.m. CT (Kickoff)
Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Ga.
In-Market Stream: NashvilleSC.com/stream
Out-of-Market Stream: ESPN+
English Radio: ESPN 94.9
Spanish Radio: El Jefe 96.7
Going Streaking – Nashville SC remains one of three unbeaten teams in Major League Soccer, and a win this weekend could put the team into the top three of the Eastern Conference for the first time in its MLS history.
However, Head Coach Gary Smith says he isn’t closely watching the standings this early in the season.
“It would be our first time of ever making that level, and the first time for anything is always the most difficult time,” Smith said. “We’re way, way early in the season to be considering those types of things. I’m very mindful of continuing to take baby steps to improve our group in numerous different areas, and I think we’re slowly but surely doing that. We are a difficult prospect for most teams, and I want to keep it that way. I think if we can continue down that line, then who knows what the future holds for us.”
New Year, New Atlanta – For the first time in its MLS history, Atlanta United failed to qualify for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs in 2020. In the offseason, the club hired former Argentine international Gabriel Heinze as its manager.
Smith says he knows this Atlanta team will be a tough test, especially after getting forward Josef Martínez back from injury.
“It’s important to us to make this game a difficult one for them,” Smith said. “I think all home teams want to have it their way, have possession, create chances and get the crowd on their side, and it’ll be our job to do our best to spoil the party. It is a rivalry game. There is a bit of edge between the two teams and I think we’ve improved. I think the result last year when we beat them at home gave us a hell of a lot of confidence. I know we’re not running into the same team, but I can only tell you from where we sit; we’re ready to go in and make it a very tough game for Atlanta, and may the best team win on the day.”
Southern Hostilities - Last year’s matches between Nashville and Atlanta were intense and hotly-contested. The first of those three matches came on Feb. 29, 2020 in front of 59,069 Nashville fans at Nissan Stadium.
Defender Alistair Johnston said he’d be lying if he didn’t feel the intensity of the match between the two geographic rivals.
“The cookie-cutter answer is, yeah, every game we take the same,” Johnston said. “But I think everyone knows that’s not necessarily completely true. We feel what fans feel. At the end of the day, we’re part of this club, too; we know what the rivalries are. We see it all over social media, we know that Atlanta and Nashville aren’t going to be the best of friends in this league. We understand the geographical proximity, as well, and we know this is a big one for our fans.
“At the end of the day, you look around the league and you look at the leagues overseas, and some teams you know they’d be fine losing every single game every year as long as they beat their cross-town rival or their local rival. For us, I don’t think it’s to that degree yet, and we hope to kind of build this rivalry up, but at the same time it’s one that everyone on our team has marked on our calendars, and it is one where if we could give up something to take a win on the road somewhere, this would be a great one to really go out there and make a statement.”