Nashville SC started strong and held on to secure three points against Atlanta United 2.
Gary Smith only made one change from the side that drew in Pittsburgh last week, handing Justin Davis the start in favor of Liam Doyle.
Will Vint opened the scoring in the fourth minute with an own goal. His overhit back pass beat goalie Brendan Moore to give Nashville a 1-0 lead.
Seven minutes later, Matt LaGrassa doubled the lead. After a good buildup by Nashville, LaGrassa collected a partially cleared ball and smashed it home from just outside the box.
Lightning in the area saw the game delayed in the 34th minute, and Nashville was never quite as dominant after the break. Previously, they looked to get behind Atlanta at every chance, but after the delay they were content to sit back and let Atlanta have the ball in non-threatening areas.
Atlanta went down to 10 men in the 76th minute, with a late tackle from George Campbell earning a red card. It wasn't Atlanta's night - they managed 10 shots after the break, but only one of them was really threatening. Nashville were content to see out the 2-0 lead and head home with three points.
The win moves Nashville up to 6th place in the East with 14 points from eight matches. They return home to take on 3rd placed Tampa Bay Rowdies on Wednesday night in the nationally-televised USL Game of the Week.
Shots: Atlanta 12 - 7 Nashville
SOG: Atlanta 3 - 4 Nashville
Goals: Atlanta 0 - 2 Nashville
Possession: Atlanta 66% - 34% Nashville
GARY SMITH (Head Coach)
On Nashville's fast start: “It could have been three or four goals in the first 15 minutes with two 1-on-1’s with the keeper for Daniel [Ríos] and Kharlton [Belmar]. In the end, our start proved to be the difference. We had chances throughout the match that we didn’t take advantage of. I think the mentality of the group was to put behind us what happened last week. We played ever so well for a long period last week and didn’t see it out. I think that carried over to today and it was a great appetite.”
On Ríos'a chance in the first 15 seconds: “I think what it did do was show everyone what the field was going to be like. It skipped beyond the defender, Daniel read it well, and got in on the keeper. He just hesitated a little bit. I have seen him many times in training and otherwise finish those off. I am a bit shocked that he didn’t. I think the field played into the way the game went. It started off at a blistering pace. The field was firm underneath but very wet on top. We were able to take advantage of that early on. The real difficulty of today was the delay. It was not easy to keep the mentality and the focus. I have to be perfectly honest, I am not sure there are too many sides, around our league or above, that would have shown the effort and determination we did. Just a real desire to make life difficult and create some good moments.”
On LaGrassa’s goal: “That three in the midfield have got to put a lot of energy into their game. Michael [Reed] and Matt [LaGrassa] have got to be supporting the forwards and be doing a serious shift to get back and fill those gaps to defend. Matt was in the right place at the right time and the finish was wonderful on that surface. Not easy to catch it sweetly on the half volley. I don’t think the keeper could have done anything about it. At that point it seemed like everytime we went on their end we scored a goal. Of course the game settled down and both sides got into more of a groove. I am delighted to really move on from last week. It is easy to dwell on what happened. They have done it quickly. Another clean sheet. Now we come home for a reasonable stretch, and if we are going to cause any damage in the league this year, then we need to win at home.”
On the defensive performance in the second half: “I thought there was some really, really good displays. Justin [Davis] slotted in wonderfully on the left-hand side. Kenny [Tribbett] was immense in the middle. I don’t remember a ball in the air that he didn’t win. Bradley’s [Bourgeois] athleticism is always a bonus there. And I though the two wingbacks gave us a tremendous amount of energy up and down the flank. Not an easy role. You have to give a lot of credit to the front two. The guys up top put in a wonderful shift athletically. They are part of the group that was so difficult to break down. [Atlanta] did have more of the ball, I have seen the stats. The reality for us was, we’ve got to find a way to manage games again. The game at 2-0 is very different than the game at 0-0. Whilst we don’t want to offer them too much, I thought the defensive abilities tonight were wonderful.”
MATT LaGRASSA (Midfielder)
On his goal: “Tonight, I just had the ball pop up to me, and I struck it cleanly. Sometimes, they just come off that way. Obviously I am happy to get the goal.”
On his form this season: “It’s always nice to be in the team consistently, which has been the case this year. I think with some of the players we’ve brought in and how competitive the squad is, I have stayed more in my natural position this year which has helped me. Feels good.”
On the defensive turnaround after the last two games: “I think we have a good defensive side. When we are a disciplined group, we are able to keep the ball out of the net, and we did that tonight. Obviously, a lot to be proud of, but still some things to work on. Even just now I’ve been debating with the guys about certain plays. We will take a look at the film and get better.”
MICHAEL REED (Midfielder)
On if the lightning delay halted the game offensively: “I think so. The environment is very difficult when you see puddles of water on the field. You see it, and you play through it. When you are up two goals and you are away, different field, they make changes, we have to say that we will get the W. Overall we played very well.”
On Atlanta's red card: “The center back, it was funny, started sprinting up and found himself where a center back shouldn’t be, in the attacking half. And I think he was so excited for the opportunity to go forward. When I went to clear it out, he just went in with his studs. It’s an absolute red. There was no discussion about it, it was an absolute red.”
On the upcoming home stretch: “We’ve got a week and half with three games. This next stretch is going to be very difficult, and it will be nice to be at home. We’ve got to rally the troops and stay focused. We’ve got to stay disciplined, because that is what good teams do, and stick with it.”