Original Free Kick: Atlanta United earns 2-2 home draw against Nashville SC (5.29.21)

Atlanta United entrance ahead of home contest against Montreal Impact
Photo credit: Atlanta United Communications (Karl L. Moore)

Two second-half goals by Nashville SC player Harry Mukhtar and first half goals by Atlanta United players Marcelino Moreno and Erik Lopez produced a 2-2 draw at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta May 29.
The draw kept Nashville (2-0-5, 11 points) undefeated in Major League Soccer (MLS) play this season while Atlanta (2-1-4, 10 points) stayed undefeated through three home matches this year.

“The way I feel about this game is to analyze the whole game,” Atlanta manager Gabriel Heinze said. “The team was better for most of the game but there were moments when we weren’t calm and futbol will bring you back.”

“There a lot of emotions because you go through the game thinking that you’re playing well than that happens,” Atlanta United player George Bello said. “For me and I’m sure for alot of the guys it feels like a loss. We have to keep going its in the past now and have to regroup. Its still early in the season.”

Atlanta took 1-0 lead in the sixth minute on Marcelion Moreno strike. The play was set up on Miles Robinson’s chip pass over several Nashville defenders to a streaking Moreno in the penalty area. Moreno was able to receive the pass and pushed his right-footed shot past Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis. It was Moreno’s team-leading third goal of the season and Robinson’s first-career MLS assist.
Atlanta looked to double its lead in the 18th minute when Erik Lopez retrieved a loose ball in the Nashville penalty area and took a shot that required a diving Willis save from going in.
Atlanta outshot Nashville 8-4 and had 57-percent of possession in the first half.
Lopez increased Atlanta’s lead to 2-0 in the 51st minute. Moreno started the play with a drive down the middle of the field and passing the ball to Bello on the left side. Bello crossed the ball into the six-yard box to Lopez who back-tapped the ball with his right heel on a spinning move in his shot attempt. Its Lopez’s first goal with Atlanta United and Bello and Moreno got credit for the assist.

“We knew Nashville was an aggressive team if we tried to play through middle channels,” Bello said. “We were able to exploit those long balls out wide or the middle like Miles (Robinson) did in his assist. That worked out pretty well accept for the last 10 minutes.”

Nashville got on the board in the 80th minute on Hany Mukhtar’s goal assisted by Daniel Lovitz and Matt LaGrassa. Lovitz and LaGrassa passed the ball back and forth to each other down the left side before hitting a cutting Mukhtar down the middle of the penalty box to push his shot past Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
Nashville equalized in the 83rd minute on another goal by Mukhtar. He retrieved a deflected shot at the end of the six-yard box and hit the rebound past Guzan to tie the score.

“(Heinze) said we have to be focused for the full 90,” Bello said. “We can never think we’re better than the other team because that’s when everything goes downhill both in futbol and life.”

Nashville outshot Atlanta 14-12 in the contest while the home team led in time of possession with 61.8-percent.
Atlanta returns to action at home against Philadelphia June 20 while Nashville visits the New York Red Bulls June 18.

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