Saturday’s historic soccer extravaganza at First Tennessee Park in the Music City went somewhat as expected. The weather could have been a little better, but the result was about right. The game finished 3-1 in favor of Atlanta in front of 9,059 fans.
But, you know what? That’s ok.
Nashville SC is a brand new team who have only practiced together for a couple of weeks. Atlanta United has had a full season of Major League Soccer under their belt. Not to mention, they made the playoffs in their inaugural season. They are supposed to be the heavy favorites against an upstart team.
Atlanta had the better amount of chances in the first half. Josef Martinez, Ezequiel Barco, and Darlington Nagbe all looked dangerous in the attacking portion, while Nashville was limited to barely any chances on goal. Goalkeeper Matt Pickens was busy though. He finished the game with one save before being subbed off in the second half.
Martinez scored for Atlanta in the 57th minute with a cool finish from just inside the 18-yard box that bested CJ Cochran to find the net after collecting an errant back pass.
Nashville SC’s first goal in their inaugural history came from Ropapa Mensah in the 65th minute. Tucker Hume flicked on a long ball to Alan Winn on the left side. Winn took a touch and whipped in a cross that Mensah was able to finish with a chip in the middle of the penalty box.
Brandon Vazquez put Atlanta United ahead for good after taking Nagbe’s layoff and slotting it past Cochran in the 74th minute. Romario Williams added one more goal in the 78th minute.
“I thought my group, they conducted themselves and gave a good account of themselves, especially in the first period.” said Nashville SC coach Gary Smith.
“There were moments, especially since we’ve been together for two weeks, where we can look back on and be pleased defensively. I thought we were difficult to break down. There were some nice challenges in the field of play. I would’ve like to have been a bigger threat on their goal, but when it’s all said and done, I think when you look at the makeup of (Atlanta United), we’ve given ourselves a pretty decent account of ourselves.”
The Boys in Gold will figure things out. Their organization was strong, and their possession looked sharped. They were strong on the break as well, which is where the goal came from. Once they have more time to gel on the pitch with each other in gamelike situations, this team can only go up.
One thing that cannot be denied, however, is the unwavering amount of support in the stands.
Nashville loves its sports teams. That was apparent today. Not many fan bases would go sit out in the pouring rain for hours to watch a brand new team play in a stadium that’s not even designated for that particular sport.
But Nashville fans did. In fact, kudos need to be given to both sets of fans. The Atlanta support groups showed up by the droves, but that was to be expected. For the Nashville crowd, the sellout (twice!) was a good sign, but it was unclear whether the pouring rain and dreary conditions would force them to retreat to dry conditions.
But they didn’t. They were loud, they were proud, and it showed.
“Credit to the city of Nashville coming out and supporting us,” said Pickens.
“Hopefully they got a good show. We got to see what they’re about, so we’re going to go out there and fight all year for these guys. First game, they came out blazing, so hopefully we can return that favor to them.”
Nashville SC will now turn its attention to another MLS side, as it faces off against Chicago Fire at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.