Nashville had lost twice and drawn five times away from Nissan Stadium entering the contest, but came away with three points while ending Atlanta's four-match winning streak and spoiling Gonzalo Pineda's managerial debut.
Despite a few promising spells of possession for Atlanta, Nashville created two late chances. The first came in the 43rd minute when a bouncing Hany Mukhtar header was stopped by a diving Brad Guzan, then in the 45th minute when Rios' attempt inside the box sailed just wide.
Nashville then found their go-ahead goal in first-half stoppage time as Rios atoned for his earlier miss, firing past Guzan to make it a 1-0 match just before the interval.
Atlanta nearly leveled the match in the 54th minute as Luiz Araujo looked to cap a nice solo run with his first MLS goal, but the Brazilian winger was denied by Joe Willis. That was one of Atlanta's two shots on target, with the other stemming from a first-half free kick. A late Josef Martinez also skimmed the outside of the post.
Atlanta thought they had a penalty kick early in the sixth minute when Alistair Johnston fouled George Bello. But after Video Review, it was deemed that the infraction occurred on the 18-yard box's edge, denying the Five Stripes a chance to test Willis from the spot.
Leal sealed Nashville's win in the 95th minute, depositing into an open net following Willis' pinpoint punt upfield as Nashville made it three straight unbeaten.
- THE BIG PICTURE: Nashville certainly needed this one against an Atlanta team looking to jump above the Eastern Conference playoff line. After a Friday night home match against New York City FC, nine of their remaining 13 matches are away from Nissan Stadium, including a four-game road trip. For Atlanta, it’s a frustrating result as the Pineda era gets underway. Their attack failed to offer much of a threat against one of MLS' stingiest defenses.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: The Boys in Gold normally lean upon CJ Sapong and Hany Mukhtar for their offense. Instead, Rios found the scoresheet for the first time this season.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Nashville logged another strong defensive performance, but Rios' goal proved decisive. He tallied a team-high four goals in 2020, back when Nashville were an expansion side.