NASHVILLE (February 10, 2018) – Even a day-long downpour couldn’t dampen the spirits of Nashville’s soccer movement. On a rain-soaked afternoon, Nashville SC made history, packing more than 9,000 into First Tennessee Park. It was a showcase of what the beautiful game will be in Music City, and while the final score showed 3-1 in favor of Atlanta United, the real winners were the soccer fans in Nashville.
The two squads matched up starters vs. starters in the first half and while Atlanta United controlled much of the ball, Nashville’s experienced defense and keeper Matt Pickens held firm to force a 0-0 halftime scoreline. The best chance of the first 45 minutes came off the foot of Atlanta newcomer Darlington Nagbe who hit the post flush.
“It was very wet,” said Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith. “if have to be perfectly honest, I thought they conducted themselves very well certainly in the first period. That's going to be our most experienced outlet; that won't necessarily be the final 11. Looking back at the last two weeks, extremely pleased defensively we looked difficult to breakdown. There was some very nice interchanges of play.”
Nashville SC made wholesale changes to begin the second half, but Atlanta kept nine of the 11 starters on the pitch. The differences showed as Atlanta scored three second half goals on their way to the 3-1 victory.
“I think they’ve only been together for 12 days, and it’s a fair play to them,” said Atlanta United keeper Brad Guzan. “They were very organized. They had quality players, and I think when MLS does come eventually, it is going to be a hit here. I think this team in USL will be a very good team. I know Gary Smith is an organized manager, and he’ll be able to get the most out of his players.”
The first Nashville SC goalscorer in history was halftime sub Ropapa Mensah who chipped in a cross from Alan Winn to tie the game at 1-1 in the 64th minute. It was pandemonium in the stands as Mensah and Mensah gave fans a show during the celebration.
“I am happy because out of the whole Nashville SC team, I am the one who scored,” said Mensah. “We are so proud to have so many supporters behind the team. I saw the keeper’s movement, that he was going down low, so I knew I had to chip it over him.”
The draw was shortlived however as Atlanta United struck twice, making the final score 3-1.
“The picture we had today was reinforcing the work we’ve made into the last 2 weeks as a new group,” said Smith. “Make sure we’re aggressive, pressing, which we certainly could have done better. Against an incredibly talented side, it was always going to be tough.”