Nashville SC

Nashville SC game preview 2023: Atlanta United

One of Nashville’s oldest rivals in Major League Soccer visits GEODIS Park for a league match for the first time. Nashville’s first game in First Tennessee Park was a friendly against ATL UTD. The club’s first US Open Cup match as an MLS club was a thrilling victory over the Five Stripes. And now, it’s time to renew that rivalry.

The essentials

Opponent: Atlanta United FC (5-1-3)
Time, Location: Saturday, April 29, 12:30 p.m. CDT • GEODIS Park
Weather: 70ºF, 9% chance of rain, 57% humidity, 4 mph SSE wind
Follow: MLS MatchCenter • @ClubCountryUSA • @NashvilleSC
Watch/Stream • Listen: MLS Live on Apple TV (free)/FOX • 104.5 The Zone

Match officials: Referee: Joe Dickerson. Assistants: Lyes Arfa, Jeffrey Swartzel. Fourth official: Rubiel Vazquez. Video Assistants: Younes Marakchi, Gjovalin Bori

Vegas Odds: Nashville SC +114, Draw +249, Atlanta United +229

Etc.: Rate, review, subscribe. Gary Smith and Ethan Zubak (plus Joey DeZart) presser.

Stat Nashville SCAtlanta United
Record (W-L-D)3-3-3 (1.33 PPG)
6th East
5-1-3 (2.00 PPG)
3rd East
Recent form (most recent first)D-L-D-W-LW-D-W-W-L
xG Power+0.03 (15th MLS)+0.51 (5th MLS)
G Power+0.35 (8th MLS)+0.56 (5th MLS)
“Luck”+0.32 (11th MLS)+0.05 (17th MLS)
Offense-0.35 (24th MLS)+0.30 (8th MLS)
Defense-0.39 (3rd MLS)-0.21 (9th MLS)
Venue advantage+0.70 Home (22nd MLS)-0.88 Away (24th MLS)
Injury reportOUT: D Nick DePuy (leg, season), M Randall Leal (ankle)OUT: M Ozzie Alonso (ACL), F Giorgos Giakoumakis (hamstring), GK Brad Guzan (MCL, season)
QUEST: M Thiago Almada (lower leg), GK Quentin Westberg (knee)

Atlanta United

This has been a very good attacking team, but just an OK defensive one. The injury report is therefore pretty noteworthy! DP striker Giogos Giakoumakis is out, while all-everything attacking mid Thiago Almada is questionable. Almada has accounted for 42% of the team’s assists and between the two of them, they’ve accounted for 60% of the team’s goals. If Almada can’t go, it’s a big deal. Of course, he did skip the midweek game in the US Open Cup – whether that was enough rest to be ready for this rivalry game may up for debate… but I would imagine he goes.

As for the other downstream effects of that loss (lol) to Memphis 901 FC (lol), Atlanta played mostly a second-choice lineup in the 120-minute outing, but there are some notable personnel exhaustion situations to monitor: left backs Caleb Wiley and Andrew Gutman each got about 60 minutes, as did attacking mids Luiz Araújo and Brooks Lennon (one replaced the other in each of those pairs). Midfielder Franco Ibarra went all 120, Amar Sejdic went about 70, and that’s about it for first-choice guys.

Of course, Atlanta doesn’t have its first-choice keeper available with an MCL injury knocking Brad Guzan out likely for the remainder of the year. Backup Quentin Westberg is questionable while third-stringer (previous starter for Galaxy and Montreal, so far from a scrub) Clement Diop hasn’t had much chance to shine – and has not done so in extremely limited samples. Goalkeeping overall has been mediocre-to-poor for Atlanta, ranging from allowing 123% of xG allowed (Guzan) to 171%(!, Diop). Westberg has been in the middle with 143%, which is also very bad.

As mentioned above, Atlanta’s attack basically starts and ends with Almada, an early front-runner for league MVP. Araújo and Wiley are the dangermen if Almada isn’t – Wiley has played mostly as a winger even though he started as a defender (and is seen mostly there as a US Men’s National Team prospect), while Araújo does slide inside if Almada is not available. Creating from the back – he did the same as a wingback in previous iterations of this Atlanta United team – is Brooks Lennon, who has played every minute so far as an attacking right back. Derrick Etienne Jr. has been a factor on one wing, as well.

Juan Sanchez and Miles Robinson have played as much as possible as the CB combination. Sanchez is sort of anonymous to the stats but Robinson is the guy you’ve come to expect: very athletic, improving as a passer, a threat on set pieces. Andrew Gutman is the first-choice left back, and 60 minutes on Wednesday notwithstanding, he’s actually been fairly rested as Wiley works in at multiple positions. He has not been a huge attacking threat, which was considered his strength when Nashville tried to sign him back in the USL era, but has been a major-up-and-back defender who is active closing down on the flanks. The backline has been mediocre overall, which is hardly damning but when your goalkeeping has sucked, it’s not ideal!

Ibarra is the key piece as a defensive midfielder, mostly flanked by Sejdic. The latter has been bad in basically all G+ breakouts, while Ibarra is an elite interruptor that is similarly bad in the non-interrupting aspects.

Atlanta’s attack mostly relies upon the individual brilliance of Almada, though they did get a couple (fairly soft, to be fair) goals in Toronto without him, one on a corner and another on a headed cross. Defensively, they… are not good. They limit opposing chances mostly by holding onto the ball, and despite that they are below-average in terms of preventing opponents’ creation, while the goalkeeping is – unfortunately for them – as I’ve already described.\

Keys to the game

  • Generate attack. Easier said than done, perhaps, but this Atlanta defensive unit is not very good, and if Nashville’s going to make chances against anyone, it’s these guys. Especially given that the goalkeeping situation is sort of bad, the definition of “chance” may have to be a bit more liberal than usual. Nashville is often quite conservative in terms of firing away (and certainly so without Randall Leal), which deflates volume of chances. Goalkeeping situation, defensive solidity… fire away in this one. There will be more chances.
  • Absorb pressure. Atlanta is a possession-heavy team, but there hasn’t been very good creation. They convert extremely well (mostly thanks to Almada and Giakoumakis), but if you maintain discipline in the defensive third, they aren’t going to make a bunch of golden opportunities.
  • Don’t focus primarily on the counter. Despite some of the above characteristics (possessing for defense, pushing numbers into attack because they don’t generate solid chances without it), Atlanta has not been super susceptible to counter-attack chances this year. Some of that is the characteristics of the CMs, who are fast but stink on the ball so there’s no reason to have them do anything other than sit back and sweep even when numbers are pushed forward. But while Nashville will want to get in behind, the patience to pull it back and work the offense has to be there, as well.
  • Open it up. TBH the conservative gameplan (sense though it makes given the build of this team) has not really worked super-great.
  • Set pieces. Ever has it been, ever shall it be.


Nashville SC 2, Atlanta United 2

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