Thiago Almada, Atlanta United overwhelm Nashville

Atlanta United forward Xande Silva #16 celebrates with teammates after a goal during the first half of the match against Nashville SC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Saturday August 26, 2023. (Photo by Jay Bendlin/Atlanta United)

Credit: Jay Bendlin/Atlanta United

Credit: Jay Bendlin/Atlanta United

Atlanta United forward Xande Silva #16 celebrates with teammates after a goal during the first half of the match against Nashville SC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Saturday August 26, 2023. (Photo by Jay Bendlin/Atlanta United)

Atlanta United has found a spark.

Xande Silva and Thiago Almada each scored and assisted the other, Miles Robinson scored another off another Almada assist, and Saba Lobjanidze marked his debut with a cheeky backheel to lift the Five Stripes to a 4-0 victory against Nashville on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

It was Atlanta United’s (11-7-8) second consecutive victory and its second consecutive shutout, bringing its total to eight in front of an announced attendance of 67,514. It kept pace with the leaders in the East ahead of Wednesday’s match against first-place Cincinnati. It trails second-place Philadelphia by two points. The Union have played two fewer games.

“I think it was a very good performance from everyone top to bottom, and it’s a credit to the players,” said manager Gonzalo Pineda, who will miss the Cincinnati match because he received his third yellow card on Saturday.

Wearing the team’s new “404 Kit,” Silva and Almada were the stars. Silva scored his first in his second start with a goal-of-the-season candidate. Almada increased his goal total to nine and his assist total to 13 as he strengthened his case to be MLS MVP.

“It‘s going well I think, between all of us, we have a good attack and everyone’s trying to be at their best level and it’s pushing us forward,” said Almada, who created nine chances.

Atlanta United took 20 shots, putting 11 on goal. It finished with an expected goals total of 3.8. Nashville took 13 shots, putting one on goal. It finished with an expected goals total of 1.1.

Pineda selected the same starting 11 as he used in the previous match at Seattle: Giorgos Giakoumakis at striker, Almada at attacking midfielder, Silva and Edwin Mosquera on the wings, Tristan Muyumba and Matheus Rossetto in central midfield, Robinson and Luis Abram as centerbacks, Brooks Lennon and Caleb Wiley as fullbacks, and Brad Guzan in goal.

Almada was next to hit the post, again the left one, in the 16th minute on a right-footed shot from 14 yards.

Atlanta United got lucky in the 20th minute when Muyumba blindly passed the ball to Hany Mukhtar, the league’s leading scorer, 18 yards from goal and with no defender near him. Mukhtar tried to hit a curling right-footed shot but he sprayed it wide.

Atlanta United broke through with a wonder-strike by Silva, who volleyed a right-footed shot into the lower right corner from a tight angle in the 26th minute. He was played in by Almada, who notched his 12th assist, tying last season’s total.

Atlanta United finished the half taking 10 shots, putting three on goal. Nashville had seven and one.

Almada increased Atlanta United’s lead to 2-0 in the 46th minute when he chipped Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis. The sequence started with Giakoumakis intercepting a pass to Nashville centerback Jack Maher. Giakoumakis crossed it to Silva, who played Almada in on goal. It was Almada’s ninth goal. Giakoumakis was also credited with an assist, his second this season.

“I think the way we’re playing from the back, the way we’re building, allows us to to create a space higher on the field,” Pineda said. “Then we’re very well once we’re in those areas because we have good players.”

Robinson headed in a corner kick in the 58th minute to increase Atlanta United’s lead to 3-0. It was his first goal this season. Almada was credited with the assist. It was Atlanta United’s ninth goal from a corner kick, most in MLS.

Lobjanidze, who like Muyumba and Silva came during the summer window, made his debut in the 61st minute, coming on for Mosquera, and Tyler Wolff also came in to replace Silva.

Atlanta United continued to attack and wasted several opportunities to score. But the play was so exciting that former team captain Michael Parkhurst took to twitter to proclaim that “ATL UTD are fun to watch again.”

Lobjanidze’s goal came in the 87th minute to cap the fun. A Nashville defender deflected Almada’s pass to Lobjanidze, denying him a third assist. Lobjanidze said it’s the first backheel goal he’s scored.

“It was really cool,” he said of his debut. “Amazing stadium. For me, the best stadium in the world. So atmosphere was amazing. So really good, really good experience. It’s a really good start.”

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Atlanta United’s 2023 MLS schedule

Feb. 25 Atlanta United 2, San Jose Earthquakes 1

March 4 Atlanta United 1, Toronto FC 1

March 11 Atlanta United 3, Charlotte FC 0

March 18 Atlanta United 5, Portland 1

March 25 Columbus 6, Atlanta United 1

April 1 Atlanta United 1, New York Red Bulls 0

April 8 Atlanta United 1, New York City FC 1

April 15 Atlanta United 2, Toronto FC 2

April 23 Atlanta United 2, Chicago 1

April 29 Nashville SC 3, Atlanta United 1

May 6 Inter Miami CF 2, Atlanta United 1

May 13 Charlotte 3, Atlanta United 1

May 17 Atlanta United 4, Colorado 0

May 20 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 3

May 27 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 1

May 31 Atlanta United 3, New England 3

June 7 Atlanta United 0, LAFC 0

June 10 Atlanta United 3, D.C. United 1

June 21 Atlanta United 2, New York City 2

June 24 New York Red Bulls 4, Atlanta United 0

July 2 Atlanta United 2, Philadelphia 0

July 8 Atlanta United 1, Montreal 0

July 12 New England 2, Atlanta United 1

July 15 Orlando City 2, Atlanta United 1

July 25 Miami 4, Atlanta United 0 in Leagues Cup

July 29 Cruz Azul 1 (5), Atlanta United (4) 1 in Leagues Cup

Aug. 20 Atlanta United 2, Seattle 0

Aug. 26 Atlanta United 4, Nashville 0

Aug. 30 vs. FC Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 2 at FC Dallas, 8:30 p.m.

Sept. 16 vs. Inter Miami CF, 5 p.m.

Sept. 20 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 23 vs. CF Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 4 at Philadelphia Union, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 7 vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 21 at FC Cincinnati, TBA