Forget fitness, Tata Martino is preparing for March 5
I almost wanted to say here that Tata has a preferred starting XI already in his mind for the March 5 MLS opener at New York Red Bulls. I’m not going to hold back on that for now, but I certainly think it’s between a group of ~14 players who are in contention to fill those spots. That’s a pretty small group, considering it’s an expansion franchise that has mostly come together over the last few months.
The starting XI Tata used Saturday afternoon against Chattanooga FC was strong and tactical. This was not a case of mixing and matching players in the lineup to optimize fitness levels — this was a group full of experience and quality. They were cohesive too, and while there are some kinks to be worked out — especially among the back four and goalkeeper — the players looked comfortable in the roles they played.
Miguel Almiron is the main man
It’s just a treat to watch this kid play. He’ got everything you want from an attacking player. It’s not just what he does around the goal with the close control and eye for a pass — it’s the defensive instincts that allow him to spring counter attacks for the team. Today he displayed great instincts for recovering and controlling a misplayed ball and immediately turning it into an attack going the other way. And once he gets going, he’s great with the ball at his feet. Watch him maneuver his way down the pitch to assist Tito Villalba for the opener. He releases the ball at the perfect time and at a perfect weight for Villalba.
One more clip from Almiron, who has great vision and can straight up unlock defenses with passes like this.
Andrew Carleton looked amazing
If Tata Martino was confident that he’d be playing Villalba and Yamil Asad/Josef Marinez on the wings on March 5, he can’t be as sure now after today’s performance from Andrew Carleton. The 16-year old winger impressed from his first touches of the game after being subbed in at halftime. In particular, he opened up the Chattanooga back line on two occasions that resulted in high-quality chances for Atlanta.
Unfortunately, Martinez was not able to put either chance in the back of the net. But Carleton wouldn’t be denied and ended up scoring a tap-in later in the half, bringing the traveling support to rush to the rail to embrace him in the biggest group hug in human history. Carleton may be young, but he looks ready to be a major contributor towards Atlanta’s success this season.
The fans were tremendous
I was excited when @TerminusLegion posted Periscope video of the march into the stadium, and the drums and chants sounded great. The commentator on the stream was very complimentary toward the traveling support, and seemed shocked when the PA announcer stated that the bleachers opposite the main stand would open up to allow for extra seating capacity. It was very cool to see the support so engaged in the game and the team, in particular when Andrew Carleton scored his aforementioned goal. The stream commentator said that the club expected about 7k-9k total attendance, but the final number was announced at ~12,400. It’s an impressive turnout and says a lot about our support and how eager we are to go on this journey with this team. Huge credit goes out to everyone who made the trip and helped contribute to the buzzing atmosphere. Let us know how your experience was in the comments! I’m genuinely interested to hear any/all stories.
This Asad goal
Shhhhh, just watch bae.