Nashville SC’s road form has been iffy at best this year (they’re the 16th-best side in USL away from home, and fifth-best at First Tennessee Park and Nissan Stadium), but some of those demons were erased Wednesday night with a 2-0 takedown of Atlanta United 2. Ropapa Mensah banged home the rebound from an Ish Jome shot in the seventh minute, while Hume did the same for one of Mensah’s shots in the 64th to give NSC just its third road victory on the year.
Atlanta United 2 becomes the second team that Nashville has played at least three times in competitive play (they’re 1-2-1 against Louisville City FC), and the first to suffer three losses to the Boys in Gold. The Baby Five Stripes also conceded multiple goals to Nashville SC, becoming just the second home team to do so (and second consecutive after a 3-3 draw at North Carolina FC).
This was a stronger Atlanta 2 team than expected, with US Youth Internationals Andrew Carleton, Chris Goslin, and Miles Robinson in the starting lineup. Additionally, starting striker Romario Williams has 16 MLS appearances for the parent club this season, while defender Jose Hernandez and midfielder Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu have also appeared for Atlanta United. This was a lineup more similar to Atlanta’s second trip to Nashville, nearly as strong as it’s possible for them to put out, rather than the rag-tag group that made the initial trip to Music City and took a 3-0 loss to the Boys in Gold.
It wasn’t exactly a complete performance – content to sit back and absorb pressure after getting the lead, Nashville possessed only 34.6% of the ball, and allowed 17 shots to ATL UTD 2 – but getting Mensah back on the board after he’d been shut out since June 16, adding an insurance goal, and pitching a clean sheet are things the team hadn’t done enough of lately, and particularly so on the road.
“It was really good to get back on the scoresheet once again because this stretch has been very frustrating for me,” Mensah said. “I’m really excited to get things going again.”
Nashville SC won’t have to wait long to get things going again. Back into playoff position with at least one game in hand on each of the five teams directly ahead of them in the table, the Boys in Gold will try to create separation between themselves at No. 8 and New York Red Bulls II. The Baby Bulls, who are just a point behind on the same number of games played, will travel to First Tennessee Park Saturday evening.
“There was added pressure of course, given the results swinging in our favor this evening,” said head coach Gary Smith. “Tonight, we gave ourselves a massive shot in the arm up the standings.
“The fact that we are so close together in the standings: we have to make sure we take advantage of the situation at home. I would hope the confidence taken out of the game tonight will give everyone the right mindset heading into the weekend.”
Should Nashville pick up a win in that game, they’ll be able to ease a bit of the tension that has come from dropping points in six of their previous seven games. With a playoff berth within reach, doing the expected is all that’s needed to earn a postseason berth in the club’s first USL season.
Saturday’s game kicks off at 7:30 CDT. The Red Bulls have yet to win on the road this year (0-5-9), and that makes it effectively must-win for the Boys in Gold to all-but seal their spot in the championship tournament.
- 7′ NSH GOAL – 3 Ropapa Mensah (right-footed, rebound)
- 45’+2 – Half time
- 50′ NSH Yellow card – 3 Ropapa Mensah
- 61′ NSH Substitution – On 7 Ryan James, off 19 Alan Winn
- 64′ NSH GOAL – 12 Tucker Hume (right-footed, rebound)
- 65′ NSH Substitution – On 30 Bolu Akinyode, off 3 Ropapa Mensah
- 69′ ATL Substitution – On 23 Lagos Kunga, off 2- Chris Goslin
- 82′ ATL Substitution – On 36 Jackson Conway, off 28 Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu
- 85′ NSH Substitution – On 28 London Woodberry, off 27 Kosuke Kimura
- 89′ ATL Substitution – On 11 Laurent Kissiedu, off 4 Jack Metcalf
- 90’+3 Full time.