Atlanta United beat Nashville SC 3-1 Saturday afternoon at First Tennessee Park in the club’s 2018 preseason opener. Forwards Josef Martinez, Brandon Vazquez and Romario Williams each scored for Atlanta to lead the club past USL side Nashville, which was playing in its inaugural match.
“I think it was a nice game because, due to facing an intense opponent, maybe we weren’t able to do everything as precise as we wanted but we were forced into playing a high-rhythm game with high pressure and a lot of possession,” Atlanta United Head Coach Tata Martino said. “We were also able to see how the new players looked together so that’s also a positive.”
Atlanta created its best chance of the first half in the 14th minute when new addition Ezequiel Barco received a pass on the left edge of the box, beat his defender off the dribble and crossed to Julian Gressel. Gressel back-tapped the ball to Darlington Nagbe, who drove a hard shot off the left post. The match remained scoreless at halftime.
Atlanta opened the scoring in the 58th minute after an attempted back pass to Nashville goalkeeper C.J. Cochran stalled on the wet surface. Martinez sprinted onto the ball and placed a right-footed shot past Cochran to give Atlanta a 1-0 lead.
Nashville leveled the match in the 64th minute when Alan Winn’s cross was calmly chipped over Atlanta goalkeeper Alec Kann by Ropapa Mensah.
In the 74th minute, Nagbe set up second-half substitute Brandon Vazquez in the box, who beat Cochran with a shot at the far post. Atlanta added a third goal in the 78th minute when substitute Romario Williams one-timed a deflected cross into the net to score in his debut match with Atlanta.
Atlanta United’s next preseason match is Feb. 17 against Columbus Crew SC, the first of three matches Atlanta will play in Charleston as part of the Carolina Challenge Cup.
ATL – Josef Martinez 58’
NASH- Ropapa Mensah (Alan Winn) 64’
ATL- Brandon Vazquez (Darlington Nagbe) 74’
ATL-Romario Williams 78’
ATL – Julian Gressel (yellow) 24’
NASH- Michael Cox (yellow) 35’
ATLANTA UNITED STARTING LINEUP
Brad Guzan (Alec Kann 46’); Greg Garza (José Hernández 63’), Leandro González Pirez (Mikey Ambrose 78’), Jeff Larentowicz (C) (Miles Robinson 72’), Sal Zizzo (Andrew Carleton); Chris McCann (Oliver Shannon 78’), Darlington Nagbe (Chris Goslin 78’), Miguel Almirón (Brandon Vazquez 63’), Julian Gressel (Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu 72’), Ezequiel Barco (Kevin Kratz 46’), Josef Martinez (Romario Williams 63’).
Substitutes not used: Mitch Hildebrandt, Paul Christensen, George Bello, Lagos Kunga, Jon Gallagher.
Nashville SC STARTING LINEUP
Matt Pickens (C.J. Cochran 46’); Ryan James (Michael DeGraffenreidt 46’), Justin Davis (Liam Doyle 46’), London Woodberry (Jordan Dunstan 46’), Bradley Bourgeois (Taylor Washington 46’), Kosuke Kimura (Josh Hughes 46’); Matt LaGrassa (Bolu AKinyode 46’), Michael Reed (Ramone Howell 46’), Lebo Moloto (Alan Winn 46’); Robin Shroot (Tucker Hume 46’), Michael Cox (Ropapa Mensah 46’)
Substitutes not used: Micah Bledsoe, Charlie Dennis, Ian McGrath, Martim Galvao.