Has Nashville SC fixed its problems with Atlanta win?

Nashville SC and Atlanta United 2 had their second act of the USL season at First Tennessee Park Wednesday night. Taylor Washington was in the right place at the right time to score in the 80th minute for the 1-0 win and their first win in July after going 0-2-1 this month. It’s Washington’s first career goal with the club, as well as his first professional career goal.

“It’s a great feeling. As soon as I saw Ish [Jome] get the ball, I know what he does. He takes people one versus one on the end line, and he put in a great ball, and Brandon made a great run and was able to sort of dummy it, and I was in the right place at the right time, thank God. It took me three years, but I’m happy and very pleased. I’m extremely happy we were able to get a win because we needed it,” said Washington.

But did Nashville SC really figure out some of its problems this game, considering this is only their second win in seven games? Somewhat, but there are still some concerns.

The finishing continues to be problem number one.

Nashville indeed passed Atlanta to death in the first half ala Spain against Russia, but that’s been their problem this entire month. They can pass anyone to death, but have no idea how to convert on chances. It has shown over this latest stretch of games they’ve only scored four goals in those seven contests, with all of them coming against Atlanta.

Remember, this is also a Nashville side that was barely averaging less goals per game (1.06) than this Atlanta side (1.11). The Boys in Gold are right at the bottom of conversion rate in the USL.

Now, both wins for Nashville during this recent stretch have come against Atlanta. Considering where Atlanta sits in the table and how Nashville struggled to put anything in the back of the net until late into the contest, it’s not a reassuring sign moving forward.

Against teams under .500, Nashville is 5-1-1. Against equal to or greater than .500,the Boys in Gold are 6-5-5. So yes, a win is nice, but the points need to also be picked up against playoff caliber teams in order to jump up the table when the schedule calls for it.

But to be fair, Atlanta decided to bring a slew of strong players from their MLS side for this outing. The starting eleven had 48 combined appearances in MLS.

Miles Robinson, Mikey Ambrose, Kevin Kratz, and Romario Williams featured in a different Atlanta side from the one in June, a much more competitive one. Their MLS experience showed a bit.

“From the very outset, it was always going to be much, much tougher than the first outing. If you look at the makeup of their team, with guys like Kevin Kratz, Romario Williams, to name a couple of first-team additions,” said Nashville SC coach Gary Smith.

“I think I’m right in saying that it’s probably the strongest group that they’ve put out in USL. I’d like to think that’s a credit to our group and how well we played against them in the last game. In fact, we have a wonderful local competition building here and a bit of a rivalry. It could be completely different reasons, but I’d like to think that. So, the game was always going to be much tougher and it proved that way.”

This is also the first time this season where Nashville has had to deal with the injury bug for multiple players. Bradley Bourgeouis, Michael Reed, and Matt Pickens were all held out of this contest. Pickens and Reed were on the injury report this week as questionable, while Bourgeois was listed as out. His latest social media posts might suggest he could be out for quite some time.

The biggest missing piece was Reed. The midfield just did not look the same without him helping control traffic with Bolu Akinyode and making precision passes to the forwards up top and the wingers running down the sideline.

Ropapa Mensah  did come in for the start, working hard and challenging for aerial balls. The link up play between him, Lebo Moloto, and Alan Winn was something to behold. Hopefully that trio impressed enough with their creativity to give them a chance to play together more moving forward.

But three points is three points, and despite Nashville’s obvious issues in the final third, this side will be happy to take the three as they come.

“In the end, of course, (I’m) absolutely delighted that Taylor can seal the deal. But, I genuinely felt we were the better side. We created the better chances and I’m very, very pleased in the conduct of the group again,” said Smith.

Nashville now jumps to 6th in the Eastern Conference with 30 points, and three of its next five matches are against playoff foes. The Boys in Gold will be back in action Saturday to take on Toronto FC II at 5 p.m. central.

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