The attacking gates opened for Atlanta over the weekend, as Five Stripes put four into the Boros’ Chicago defense line after weeks of disappointing the last third. Gonzalo Pineda’s side will need a similar performance if they are to hand Nashville FC their first defeat at the newly opened Geodes Park in US Open Round of 32 Cup.
Gary Smith’s Nashville has been a defensive force since he set foot in MLS and despite eight games on the way to start the season, this is no different this year. Nashville has had ten goals conceded in the same number of games, resulting in multiple goals being scored in one game only twice throughout the year. Despite struggling offensively (it ranks eighth in the West in terms of goals scored), Nashville is sixth with 15 points, which is even more impressive when you consider the route it took to get there. After transitioning 3W/2D/3L at the heavy travel start of the season, the new Nashville Stadium is now ready to go and has since tied for Philadelphia and the win. Real Salt Lake In Geodes Park.
Not only will Atlanta have to find a way to get past Nashville’s stubborn backline to hand it their first home loss, but the Five Stripes also have a number of offensive threats to watch out for. Hany Mukhtar (2g, 2a) and CJ Sapong (3g, 1a) are the main (and only) dangers but they can rest easy, in which case DP striker Ake Loba should get a rare start. The 24-year-old Ivory Coast hasn’t really made an impact in Music City after arriving from Monterrey from the heavily-charged Liga MX team last summer, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he showed up on Wednesday.
Atlanta’s 4-1 win over Chicago was a welcome return to winning ways after four games without a win, but it came at a heavy cost – Miles Robinson. This leaves Pineda to his final options in central defense, at least until the summer transfer window Opens. This means that Atlanta’s best chance of winning the cup this season may be the Open Cup but with a hectic fixture list, team rotation is a must.
Expect to start XIs
Prediction: Nashville SC 0-1 Atlanta United
It wouldn’t be pretty but Atlanta will do enough to qualify for the round of 16, with the late winner from Thiago Almada on the bench.