Atlanta United defeated Nashville 3-1 on Saturday at First Tennessee Park.
It was the Five Stripes’ first preseason game and Nashville’s first game as a pro-level team. After years as playing as amateurs, Nashville is moving up to the second-division USL this season as it progresses toward MLS in 2019 or 2020.
Jason Longshore and I offered our thoughts on the game in this podcast edition of Southern Fried Soccer.
Here are three players who caught my eye in the game:
1. Darlington Nagbe. The midfielder controlled Atlanta United’s possession. Deployed between defensive midfielder Jeff Larentowicz and attacking midfielder Miguel Almiron, Nagbe was the pivot linking the back to the front. He dictated if the play would move side to side or back to front. With Almiron and Ezequiel Barco buzzing around and interchanging positions, Nagbe played off the two very well and was very calm within Nashville’s press.
It was clear why Atlanta United made him its No. 1 target within MLS in the offseason.
Nagbe was more than just a passer. He also had the first good chance in the game when his 20-yard shot bounced off the post in the first half. He later attempted an audacious volley off a corner kick that, had the shot gone in, would have matched Yamil Asad’s curling shot in last year’s preseason opener for its quality.
Speaking of Asad, manager Gerardo Martino was asked what Nagbe and Barco, who also looked good in his 45 minutes, brought to the team compared to Asad and Carlos Carmona, who are no longer with the franchise. Martino was very complimentary of both, as expected, saying Carmona was, in effect, one of the most important players on the field and that Asad’s defense was also very important. Martino said Barco and Nagbe offer more offensive combinations going forward.
Nagbe showed that on his assist on Brandon Vazquez’s goal. Nagbe picked up the ball near midfield and dribbled some 40 yards before laying it off to this right where Vazquez one-timed the shot. That was a run that Carmona likely wouldn’t have made last year.
2. Brandon Vazquez. Vazquez looked like a beast . He is so big and can cover so much ground that he is matchup problem for most fullbacks. Imagine he and Franco Escobar, who is also big for a fullback, motoring up the right flank.
Alas, Vazquez’s minutes will be determined by Hector Villalba, who will start at right midfield/striker. Vazquez may earn spot minutes, as he did last year, but it seems likely he will get most of his minutes with Atlanta United 2, the USL team, this year. That’s not a bad thing.
Vazquez scored Atlanta United’s second goal in the 74th minute when he caught up to Nagbe for an easy finish.
His work on defense forced the mistake that led to Atlanta United’s third goal, scored by Romario Williams when he pounced on a mishit clearance in the 78th minute.
3. Chris Goslin. The Homegrown Player has been one of my favorite players to watch during training sessions this year because he seems much more confident and comfortable compared to last season. The same can be said for Miles Robinson and Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu.
Goslin came in for the final 12 minutes and showed his range, strength and passing ability in just a few minutes.
Goslin is another player who is going to get most of his minutes with Atlanta United 2 this season, but his future looks bright.