The 2020 expansion team looked especially dialed in as it hammered Atlanta 4-2 – the first multi-goal game in the club’s 10-game MLS history – and after the match Nashville admitted that they saw Robinson’s quote.
"Yes, it was talked about before the game. Gary [Smith, head coach] touched on it a little bit," Nashville captain Dax McCarty said.
Here’s the phrase in question uttered by Robinson before the match: “I think the group as a whole knows we have better players than them [Nashville] and I think we just have to go out there and prove it.”
"When you're an expansion team, unless you're spending millions and millions and millions of dollars like Atlanta did or like LAFC, teams are always going to look at you maybe as inferior and try to get the best of you,” McCarty said, pointing out that he was anticipating the question in the postgame press conference. “But I think we've shown throughout the year that we're going to be competitive. Every game we're going to be competitive. And sure, we may not be as talented as other teams, but I certainly don't think we lack in that department at all and we're going to make up for it in other ways.
"But I have to say: a little bit of unsolicited old man advice for Miles Robinson,” McCarty continued. “I think he's got tremendous talent. I think the future for him is extremely bright. But when your team is going through a tough time … their team is not in a good place right now, and their team is struggling. So for me, if I can give Miles a little bit of advice I would say to him: Talent is only so valuable and it's only going to take you so far. Especially in this game. Especially in soccer because there's so much more to the game than talent.
“So when you're going through a tough time I would say that things like character, things like hard work, things like humility, they go a long way to help get your team out of a tough time. For us, we continue on our path. Regardless how teams look at us, we're not going to let it affect us in our locker room.”
Dax McCarty scored a goal and three assists in the 4-2 win | Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Robinson's Atlanta United teammate George Bello came to his defense: “I’m sure Miles didn’t mean that with any disrespect towards them. He just has confidence in us as players, his own teammates.”
And while he said he wanted to hear the quote for himself, interim manager Stephen Glass said “that’s probably something you shouldn’t be saying the day before a game if that’s what he said. It gives other teams backup. Whether we believe it to be true or not it’s not something you should be saying the day before a game. It gives an extra incentive to another team.”
And motivating the other team is the last thing that Atlanta want to do when the Five Stripes are playing as poorly as they are. Glass and captain Jeff Larentowicz were severely critical in their assessment of the team's performance, one that Glass called “one of the worst performances that the club has seen.”
“Tonight it just wasn’t good enough across the field,” said Larentowicz, who feels the team needs to play its way out of its current funk and do small things right. “I take responsibility. My performance was bad. I’m wearing the armband. I have to get better out of my teammates. First half wasn’t good. Gave away the ball, gave away goals. Did nothing to help Brad [Guzan, goalkeeper]. So turnovers, inconsistency on the ball. It was all there.”
Highlights: Nashville 4, Atlanta 2
“I don’t think any manager in the country can legislate for the sort of mistakes that we made tonight,” Glass said. “Defensively off a set piece – poor. Giving the ball away – poor. Not defending crosses -- not very good. A team can’t be on the front foot if you can’t pass it out of your own half … There’s a lot of people that know they didn’t come to the required standards to play for the club tonight.”
“If you don’t do the basic things well and if clear instructions are not followed and people just like to do what they want to do rather than what their team needs them to do, then the team finds itself in trouble,” Glass continued. “The reality check is that the work rate needs to stay high. The following of instructions needs to happen and you can’t play for 45 minutes and expect to beat anyone. So I think that’s the reality check.
“Zero excuse and zero reason for it tonight. But it’s important it’s a reality check and a realization that the standards at this club are higher than at a lot of other clubs and the expectations are, too. So it’s important we get back on board and finish the season where we need to be.”