Atlanta United thumped by Nashville as season spirals

Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan (1) waits for play to resume as Nashville SC players celebrate after a goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan (1) waits for play to resume as Nashville SC players celebrate after a goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Five Stripes have won once in past 9 league games

Atlanta United may think that it has better players than Nashville, but the expansion franchise played as the better team in defeating its Southern neighbors 4-2 on Saturday at Nissan Stadium.

Atlanta United centerback Miles Robinson on Friday said that his team should win because it had better players. It was uncharacteristically braggadocios.

It proved wrong.

Nashville jumped on three Atlanta United turnovers in its half in the first half to score three goals, the first less than a minute into the game, and each of them made the Five Stripes look worse than the one scored previously. Nashville had scored just five goals in its previous nine games.

“No excuse for the performance level tonight,” Atlanta United interim manager Stephen Glass said.

Atlanta United (3-6-2) has won just one of its past nine league games and fell to 4-25-9 all-time when the opponent scores first. It also fell behind Nashville in the Eastern Conference standings.

“It wasn’t just good enough across the field,” captain Jeff Larentowicz said. “My performance was bad. I’m wearing the armband. I have to get better out of my teammates. Gave away the ball. Gave away goals. Did nothing to help Brad (Guzan). Turnovers, inconsistency on the ball. It was all there.”

Atlanta United’s starting lineup featured Tyler Wolff, making his first start. The 17-year-old Homegrown signing, son of Austin FC and Stone Mountain native Josh Wolff, has just one previous appearance this season. Brad Guzan started in goal with a centerback pairing of Robinson and Anton Walkes. The fullbacks were Franco Escobar and George Bello. Larentowicz started at defensive midfielder, the 389th start in his MLS career. The midfield consisted of Ezequiel Barco, Mathues Rossetto and Brooks Lennon. Adam Jahn joined Wolff at striker.

It took less than a minute for Nashville to take a 1-0 lead. The goal started with an Atlanta United turnover in its third of the field. Nashville won a corner kick. The ensuing set piece was turned in by Dom Badji just 54 seconds after the starting whistle. Badji got behind Walkes at the back post. It was the second quickest goal ever scored against Atlanta United. Toronto’s Tsubasa Endoh scored 27 seconds into the June 26, 2019 match.

Atlanta United tied the game in the 19th minute on a header by Larentowicz from a free kick by Barco. Larentowicz, who made a run to the near post, barely touched the ball but it was enough to bring the score even. It was Larentowicz’s first goal this season and Barco’s third assist. The free kick was a result of a foul against Bello.

Nashville grabbed a 2-1 lead and the play started with another turnover in Atlanta United’s third, this time on a throw-in that was intercepted. It finished with Hany Mukhtar holding off Larentowicz while calmly shooting with his right foot into the corner in the 28th minute. Robinson didn’t move over very quickly to try to help defend and Walkes was also slow to slide to his right.

Nashville increased its lead to 3-1 on a header by Dax McCarty in the 36th minute. The shot deflected off Walkes and in. The play started with a turnover by Lennon in Atlanta United’s third. No one marked McCarty as he ran into the center of the penalty box to meet Daniel Lovitz’s cross.

“I don’t think any manager can legislate for the sort of mistakes we made tonight,” Glass said. “You can’t be on the front foot if you can’t pass it out of your own half.”

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Nashville grabbed a 4-1 lead when Abu Danladi sprinted past Walkes, ran onto a long pass, and slid a shot under Guzan in the 57th minute.

Atlanta United halved its deficit with a goal from Bello, assisted by Jahn, in the 61st minute. Jahn made a smart run behind Nashville’s defense. Jurgen Damm found him. Jahn put his cross back across the penalty box to the streaking Bello, who hit a left-footed shot into the right corner for his first goal this season.

Damm, who entered the game in the 46th minute, came off in the 75th minute. Damm was holding his leg as he waited to come off.

Bello saved Atlanta United from falling behind 5-2 when he cleared a Walker Zimmerman header off the line.

Nashville was asked after the game about Robinson’s comments.

“A little bit of unsolicited old man advice for Miles Robinson," McCarty told journalist Ben Wright after the game. "I think he’s a fantastic player... I would say to him, talent is only so valuable. It’s only going to take you so far...”

Atlanta United upcoming games

Saturday Miami, 7 p.m., Fox Sports Southeast

Sept. 23 Dallas, 7 p.m., Fox Sports South

Sept. 27 at Chicago, 7:30 pm., Fox Sports Southeast

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