Nashville SC (7W-2L-11D, 32 points) returns from a 10-day break on Saturday when it travels south to take on Atlanta United FC (6W-6L-9D, 27 points).
The nationally-televised match will be the third and final clash between the two southeastern rivals, and it comes during MLS Heineken Rivalry Week. Both previous matches this season ended in 2-2 draws. Midfielder Hany Mukhtar scored three of Nashville’s four goals against Atlanta this season, including a brace in the final 10 minutes to earn Nashville’s first road point of the season on May 29.
Here’s everything you need to know about Saturday’s match:
Date: Saturday, August 28
Time: 2:30 p.m. CT
Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta, Ga.)
TV: Univision, TUDN
English Radio: ESPN 94.9
Spanish Radio: El Jefe 96.7
Eyes on ATL – Atlanta is a much-changed side since the last time these two teams met on July 8 in Nashville. In that time, head coach Gabriel Heinze was replaced by interim head coach Rob Valentino, who has guided the club to four straight wins going into this match. New permanent head coach Gonzalo Pineda will take over for Valentino starting this Saturday.
With a new coach coming into a hot Atlanta team, Nashville SC Head Coach Gary Smith says he’s prepared for anything on Saturday.
“We’ve had two games already against Atlanta,” Smith said. “I know there’s been one or two personnel changes, maybe players coming back from injury that weren’t around in their last game, and of course a head coaching change. But to that degree, we’re not going to know what tactically changes within that group. I would suspect with four wins [in a row] that there’ll be a lot of confidence in the group, and there'll be some similarities from the last three or four games.”
Rested and Recovered - With 10 days between matches, the Boys in Gold will enter Saturday with fresh legs. The time off came at a perfect juncture after five matches in just two and a half weeks between August 1 and August 18.
“The weekend off always gives me an opportunity to maybe offer the guys a tad more time to let their bodies recover, regenerate and even spend some valuable family time,” Smith said. “I know we had two home games back-to-back very quickly on the Sunday and the Wednesday, but we’d had a pretty tough away schedule just before that. So, it was a nice opportunity to give them that moment, but also to get the schedule back on track in a normal week and with a fresh group of players. Physically, I think the guys were in a good spot when they came back; very focused. I think, generally, we’re in a pretty decent place.”
Road Work Ahead – Nashville SC has 32 points and currently sits in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, tied on points with third-place Philadelphia Union with a match in hand. The final months of the season will present new challenges, with 10 of the final 14 matches of the season coming on the road.
Smith says the team isn’t ready to rest on their laurels.
“Nobody’s getting overly excited about our position in the league,” Smith said. “But we do know that there’s some very important games coming up, and if we can get our job done, then we could be in a good spot inside the next six or eight games.”