Having already gained some confidence after advancing in the CONCACF Champions League earlier this week, ATL United hit the pitch in Nashville, TN on Saturday night looking to do something for the first time in team history — win an MLS season opener.
That’s right. As shocking as it may seem given the club’s success in its still young history, United entered the 2020 season with an 0-3 record in openers. It was certainly no easy task to avoid yet another 0-1 start, but the Five Stripes found a way, crashing the MLS-debut party for Nashville SC via a 2-1 final.
Ezequiel Barco got the scoring started early on, giving United a 1-0 lead in the ninth minute via a rocket shot from just beyond the 18-yard box.
Ezequiel Barco with the warm welcome for Nashville. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/8iv5emmRNi
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) March 1, 2020
The score would remain in United’s favor for almost 20 minutes until Walker Zimmerman connected for an equalizer that will go down in the history books as the first goal in MLS play for Nashville. Interestingly enough, Zimmerman, in what many found a very surprising move, was dealt from LAFC to Nashville less than three weeks ago. Needless to say, the U.S. National Team member and 2019 MLS All-Star has already become a fan favorite in his new city.
After the Zimmerman goal, it did not take very long for United to find its way right back on top, and for good. In the 37th minute, Emerson Hyndman got one past Nashville goalie Joe Willis for a somewhat controversial difference maker.
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) March 1, 2020
So yes, all the scoring in this one went down in the first half. It was a defensive struggle between the two sides in the second half, particularly after United’s superstar striker Josef Martinez went down with a leg injury that required him to be taken off on a stretcher in the 69th minute. An official diagnosis for Martinez has not been reported at time of writing, but the situation should be made clearer over the next couple days.
Obviously, it would be a huge blow for United should Martinez be forced to miss an extended period of time and make Saturday’s victory bittersweet to say the least. For now, Five Stripe fans can enjoy this win and pray for the best for Martinez.
Atlanta United will be back in action next Saturday evening for their home opener at Mercedes-Benz Stadium versus FC Cincinnati.