Atlanta United got to experience Saturday afternoon just how much of an influence Hany Mukhtar has been for Nashville SC.
In Nashville’s 3-1 home win against Atlanta at Geodis Park, Hany Mukhtar only came away with two assists, but he was fundamental in all three goals. After his two assists Saturday, he is now at three goals and five assist, which is the best start to any season of his career.
Nashville SC coach Gary Smith started the match with an unchanged lineup from last weekend’s match versus LAFC, which is understandable after holding the MLS defending champion to a 1-1 draw.
It does bring up the question about where Sean Davis has been the last two games after starting eight straight matches. Smith provided an update on the midfielder after the match saying, “He’s had a slight hamstring problem and has a chance to be with the group for Chicago.”
Like Nashville, Atlanta is also missing some key pieces without veteran goalkeeper, Brad Guzan for a few weeks and is now on their third string goalkeeper, Clement Diop. Atlanta United was also without striker Georgios Giakoumakis, and were forced to start Machop Chol, who started his first MLS match in a position he’s never started in his professional career.
Nashville did what it does best for the majority of the first 45 minutes, and that is to frustrate the opposition when it comes to big chances. For instance, the first and only shot on target in the first half came in the 25th minute from a tame long shot from Atlanta’s midfielder Matheus Rossetto. Nashville SC didn’t have an abundance of big chances, either, but punished its rivals when getting the chance. The first goal came from two of Nashville’s star players, Mukhtar and Walker Zimmerman. Mukhtar swings one in the cross from only the second corner of the game, while Zimmerman flicks it into a dangerous area for Fafa Picault to get the easiest goal of his career.
The message coming out of the dressing room from Smith was to strike first. Last week, he felt LAFC landed that first strike of the second half and that was the difference between all three points. Nashville did exactly that and it came from Mukhtar who made a brilliant run on the left cutting in and out and firing a low shot which Clement Diop got down to his left well, but the ball spilled out for Nashville’s striker Teal Bunbury.
However, Atlanta would ultimately respond after winning a penalty from a clumsy challenge from Dax McCarty. Atlanta’s star player, Thiago Almada, who featured for Argentina in the World Cup, scored Atlanta’s lone goal of the match. This made the last 20 minutes stressful for the fans attending at Geodis Park. Jacob Shaffelburg eliminated all fears with a brilliant injection of pace after Mukhtar plays him in and calmly slots it past Diop.
Nashville will continue the long homestand Saturday, May 7, as the Chicago Fire visit Geodis Park.
Patton Cook / WNSR - Nashville SC Reporter