New on Sports Illustrated: Nashville-Atlanta United Preview

August 21, 2020 at 01:50AM

Following a massively disappointing showing at the "MLS is Back Tournament" and the "mutual" dismissal of coach Frank de Boer, Atlanta United FC is hoping to make a serious statement that it can still be an elite club upon the league's resumption of the regular season.

Atlanta begins down that path Saturday night against a visiting Nashville SC side that's looking to remain undefeated on its return to play.

After winning its first two matches before the coronavirus pandemic halted the season, Atlanta (2-3-0) looked to be one of the favorites to win the league's return-to-action tournament in Florida. Even with star Josef Martinez out for the season with an ACL surgery - suffered in the season-opening 2-1 victory over Nashville (1-2-1).

However, United dropped all three of its group-stage matches by the same 1-0 scoreline. The club's early exited was one of the biggest storylines of the event, and ultimately cost de Boer his job. Though, his departure has been dubbed as a "mutual" decision.

Stephen Glass, who was part of the club's coaching system, has stepped in to guide United on an interim basis. The hope is that he will be able to revive an offensive attack that's produced four goals through five games in 2020, and just two minus Martinez on the pitch.

The recent signings of winger Jurgen Damm and forward Erick "Cubo" Torres could provide a boost in the attacking third.

"People think of Atlanta United as this attacking team, exciting team," Atlanta keeper Brad Guzan told the official MLS website. "That's what we want to be as players. So, now Glassy and his staff, they're now giving the freedom and the responsibility to the players to go in and express themselves and be forward-thinking players. Be positive-playing players."

That remains to be seen if that will be the case.

Ezequiel Barco and Emerson Hyndman each had a goal in Atlanta's first two games of the season, and get another shot at Nashville. Former Los Angeles FC defender Walker Zimmerman scored the lone tally for Nashville in the season's first meeting.

A COVID-19 outbreak prevented Nashville from taking part in the "MLS is Back Tournament," but it's looked solid in a return to play. David Accam's goal in the 86th minute delivered Nashville its first MLS victory, 1-0 at FC Dallas on Aug. 12. Nashville then played Dallas to a scoreless draw on Sunday.

"I'm very pleased with the way the guys have acquitted themselves in such incredibly tough circumstances," coach Gary Smith told Nashville's official website. "There's growth to be had, especially in our game, and there's improvements that will come along the way. If you look at the foundations at this point, we're in a good place."

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