Atlanta United FC will square off with host Nashville SC Saturday, less than two weeks after Nashville beat Atlanta 3-2 in the U.S. Open Cup on the same field.
Atlanta (4-4-3, 15 points) has just one victory in its last six MLS matches, but still resides above the playoff line in the Eastern Conference in seventh place roughly one-third of the way through the season.
Nashville (5-4-3, 18 points) is looking for its third win of the month, not including its U.S. Open Cup success, which has it facing Louisville City next week.
The teams have split their six MLS matches evenly (2-2-2) in the three seasons since Nashville joined the league, but after Atlanta won the two games in Nashville's 2020 expansion season, United have been joyless in five meetings -- just 0-3-2 in the series, including the recent U.S. Open Cup loss.
The club from the Music City is coming off a 2-1 home win Wednesday over CF Montreal. Alex Muyl and Hany Mukhtar provided goals for Nashville. The win came after Nashville was blanked 2-0 by the Houston Dynamo in its previous match.
"This game was about feeling like ourselves again," Muyl said after the win over Montreal.
Muhktar's goal against Montreal was assisted by CJ Sapong, marking the 11th time the duo has linked up for a score the past two seasons. This season, Muhktar and Sapong have a combined six goals and six assists.
"It was out of the same sort of connection and understanding that we've seen so much of in the past between Hany and CJ. It's great to see that," Nashville coach Gary Smith said.
While Atlanta is unbeaten at home in 13 successive matches, they have struggled on the road this season, losing four of five and three in a row. Nashville, meanwhile, is unbeaten at home in 22 straight matches.
The Five Stripes could get an offensive boost Saturday if star striker Josef Martinez can make an appearance. The former MVP and Golden Boot winner had surgery on his right knee in early April. On Thursday, he returned to training and the club upgraded his status to questionable. Before he was sidelined, Martinez had two goals and two assists in five games.
"He's doing very good, very good," Atlanta coach Gonzalo Pineda said. "He's reintegrating to the training sessions in a partial way and he's doing stuff on the side after that. But more preparing him on the fitness side. He's making a lot of progress, so we're very happy with that."
--Field Level Media