Atlanta United got the best of Nashville SC in their MLS debut Saturday night defeating the newcomers 2-1 on the road in Nashville. Atlanta earned their road points behind goals from Ezequiel Barco and Emerson Hyndman while Walker Zimmerman made history by scoring Nashville’s first-ever goal in Major League Soccer.
It only took nine minutes for Atlanta to get on the scoresheet and take the lead over the debutants. With Atlanta on the attack, Franco Escobar lobbed a beautiful ball to Ezequiel Barco. His defender slipped, allowing Barco time for separation. Once on his right foot, he went to his right and curled a shot from the top of the 18 that beat the keeper.
It was an even matchup about halfway through the first half with Nashville missing the brunt of their opportunities. That ended when Walker Zimmerman got the best of Brad Guzan to score the club’s first goal in MLS.
In the 37th minute, confusion on an offside call led to Atlanta United’s second goal. The offside flag went up but was brought down seconds later. Once the flag was raised, Nashville stopped playing, allowing a quick cross to Emerson Hyndman. Hyndman took the pass on the chest and nailed a volley into the near-side corner, sending Atlanta supporters into a frenzy.
Those same supporters lost their breath in the 63rd minute when their 2018 Golden Boot winner went down on the pitch, pointing to his knee. His teammates surrounded him as he was being tended to by the physio and eventually got to his feet to walk off the field. He came back on for all of five minutes and went back down. Adam Jahn came in for him in the 68th minute.
What good is the first matchday of the season without a bit of controversy? In stoppage time, Nashville had sent their numbers in attack with time dwindling down. Atlanta cleared the ball upfield where Ezequiel Barco won a 50/50 ball. Nashville’s goalkeeper Joe Willis sprinted to the halfway line to make a challenge. Once Barco settled the ball, he launched an attempt that would hopefully have a chance on goal, but Willis jumped and intentionally used his hands to block the ball. Such an offense is a clear red card, yet the referee pulled out a yellow and Atlanta United players were furious. This will surely be debated this week.
With injuries to both Escobar and Martinez, the five stripes will try and regroup before their home opener next Saturday, March 7, against FC Cincinnati. The following Tuesday, March 10, the club will head to Estadio Azteca for their Concacaf Champions League matchup with Club América. América will be looking for revenge after their defeat in Atlanta for the Campeones Cup.
Photo: Hakim Wright