1. Major props to the Nashville SC and Atlanta United supporters for making it out to First Tennessee Park on this rainy evening. The temperature sitting around 56 degrees at kickoff certainly made the constant precipitation bearable for the faithful legion of supporters situated behind the goal along what would be the third base line during a Sounds game and for the contingent from Atlanta located in left centerfield. The game was an announced sellout on Tuesday before the forecast was set in stone. Still, this is a day that a lot of people in Nashville have been waiting for for nearly a year, if not longer, for the most ardent of supporters. Glad to see the commitment to the world’s game from the 9,059 supporters who survived this rainy February afternoon.
2. Atlanta controlled the majority of possession in the first 10 minutes of play as the MLS side found relative attacking ease in the USL outfits first match. The chances evened in the next 10 minutes as NSC found their footing when awarded two free kicks that were both defended well by the Five Stripes.
3. The best attacking chance of the first half came in the 17th minute when Darlington Nagbe of Atlanta United’s strike from 20 yards out hit the left post deflecting out of bounds. Nagbe later had a volley attempt off a corner that sailed over the top of the NSC goal. For the half, Atlanta had 7 attempts to Nashville’s 2, with one requiring a save from Pickens.
4. Ezequiel Barco came with a tone of fanfare to Atlanta thanks to the 18 year-olds prowess in the Primera Division in his native Argentina. Barco had a chance to score a goal in his debut in the 34th minute but his attempt slid wide of a beaten Matt Pickens. United manager Gerardo Martino clearly has big plans for the Argentinian winger as he was called upon to take the majority of the teams set piece attempts in the first half.
5. To no one’s surprise, the field conditions were suboptimal thanks to the consistent rainfall. The infield of the outlined diamond at First Tennesse Park was where the majority of the problems laid, particularly along the first base line where there was a considerable amount of water logged to that side. Still, the footing for the players didn’t seem to be an issue for the most part and the field crew left with an unenviable challenge had the field in good shape despite the conditions.
6. NSC midfielder Michael Reed was awarded the first captaincy for the club. Reed, who came over on transfer from Western Conference side San Antonio FC, captained the club to the USL Cup Playoffs in 2017. The club will continue to evaluate the captaincy for the preseason before officially assigning the armband.
7. Nashville went to an entirely new 11 in the second half, while Atlanta opted to keep most of their starters on until the later stages of the match, except for goaltender Brad Guzan, who came off in favor for Alec Kann, and Barco, exited in place of Kevin Kratz. It’ll be interesting to see how Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith manages his substitutions throughout the preseason. The Blue and Gold have a challenge in acclimating a roster comprised of players with a myriad of professional experience in only a month and a half before USL play starts.
8. In the 56th minute, Ramone Howell gave it a go from around 30 yards out with a volley that sat atop of the Atlanta goal but would’ve been good enough as Kann was nowhere to be found to defend the attempt.
9. The field conditions finally came into play in the 58th minute when Liam Doyle’s back pass was caught in the slog, allowing for Josef Martinez to capitalize on the ball putting it past Pickens for the first goal of the afternoon.
10. Ropapa Mensah etched his name in Nashville SC history and will forever be the trivia answer to who scored the first professional goal for the franchise. Mensah tapped home a pass from Alan Winn that was set up by a beautiful cross from Doyle coming from about 45 yards away. Mensah has been one of the most exciting players in practice for NSC and will be expected to be a consistent contributor in the Blue and Gold’s attack.
11. PDL favorite Martim Galvao entered the match in the 71st minute for Mensah. Galvao led NSC’s PDL team with 7 goals in the summer of 2017 and will likely be a fan favorite throughout the inaugural season. NSC supporters didn’t have long to celebrate getting level as Nagbe found Brandon Vazquez in the 74th minute to put the Five Stripes back in front 2-1. Romario Williams added another in the 78th suring up Atlanta’s win in the preseason opener for both clubs. Overall, a 3-1 result in a friendly against an MLS team that competed in the playoffs last season is nothing to be disappointed in. NSC’s second unit more than held their own for a while there in the second half with the majority of Atlanta’s starting 11 still on the pitch. Positive start for Smith and his side. Next up, Chicago FIre of the MLS at IMG Academy in Florida on the 21st.