NASHVILLE – For the first time all season, Nashville SC is coming off of back-to-back losses. First it was last Wednesday in the Round of 16 in the U.S. Open Cup to Louisville City FC, 2-1. Then on Tuesday at home, Nashville suffered its most disappointing loss of the season, 2-0 to Indy Eleven. The team, however, will have a golden opportunity to bounce back against Atlanta United 2 on Saturday at First Tennessee Park.
The back-to-back losses ended a remarkable 11-match unbeaten streak across all competitions and an eight-match unbeaten streak at home dating back to the club’s home opener on March 24 vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds. In that stretch of eight home matches, the club scored 15 goals and conceded just two goals. Nashville also never trailed at any point in those eight matches.
Here’s the lowdown on what you need to know about Saturday’s matchup:
Atlanta United’s development squad started the season on a tear by going unbeaten in its first four matchups. However, the club has slowed down significantly since then, going 1-7-2 in its last 10 matches. Atlanta’s lone win in that stretch came against winless Toronto FC II. The team hasn’t taken the field since June 13 as the team’s match against Ottawa Fury FC was postponed due to weather on June 16. This should be a very well-rested squad coming to Nashville this weekend.
As a development team, Atlanta has cycled through a number of players and a number of scorers. Jon Gallagher leads the squad with five goals in 13 appearances, but the team’s most dangerous players might just be some of its teenagers. Andrew Carleton (18), Chris Goslin (18) and Lagos Kunga (19) are all Atlanta United “Home Grown Players” that all have bright-looking careers ahead. The trio dress for Atlanta United 2 most of the time with Carleton and Goslin making an occasional appearance for the parent club.
Nashville has had to bounce back from losses in the past. The club went on unbeaten streaks after each of the club’s first two USL losses. After the team’s loss to Indy Eleven on April 14, the club went on that 11-match unbeaten run. With that in mind, the club will need to get back on track against a team that currently sits in the penultimate position in the Eastern Conference. Teams have averaged more than two goals a game against Atlanta United 2.
One big difference in this matchup will be age. With credit to Nashville SC play-by-play announcer John Freeman, the average age of Atlanta United’s goal scorers this year is 20 years, four months. By comparison, Nashville’s youngest player, Ropapa Mensah, is 20 years, 10 months old. Nashville SC will need to rely on its experience and wisdom to play a sound bounce-back match on Saturday.
Head coach Gary Smith – “The morale of the team is very good. Understandably after the game the guys were very dejected and disappointed. It always takes time for the emotion to move on and to get clarity as to what happened and why and to move on again. I’ve got a very genuine group, a focused group, and a group that wants to perform. I think last time we just shifted what we are about. We are a tremendously competitive team and a decisive team. When we overcomplicate things, we don’t look the same. We are decisive and controlled and bright in how we make things happen and when we don’t do that we become something different. We need to remember what it takes to win a game and not veer too much from those fundamental qualities.”
Watching the East
Nashville SC has fallen back to 6th in the Eastern Conference following its loss on Tuesday. The club could finish Saturday as high as third, however, depending on other results around the conference. One other match to keep an eye on is Louisville City hosting New York Red Bulls II. Louisville, currently just two points ahead of Nashville in the standings, is 0-1-3 in its last four games. That form has allowed Nashville to close the gap with the defending champs in the last few weeks.
The game will be broadcast locally on MyTV30 beginning at 7:30 p.m. The game will also be broadcast on the radio at ESPN 94.9 Game 2 and 96.7 El Jefe. Out of town fans can catch the game digitally on ESPN+. If fans aren’t able to watch or listen, they can follow @NashvilleSC on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for live match updates and highlights.