For most of the 90 minutes against the New York Red Bulls Sunday, Atlanta United showcased the young talent many across MLS have been raving about since the signings have been made. What was glaringly missing, especially in the final 15 minutes, was veteran experience.
Miguel Almiron, Tito Villalba, Yamil Asad and Josef Martinez all made Atlanta United look dangerous on the attack. Their speed at times seemed unmatchable and is exactly what could make this club so much fun to watch throughout the 2017 season. Almiron specifically turned heads across the league for his speed on and off the ball.
The lack of experience, however, made the difference between Atlanta United winning the game one or two goals up and what ultimately transpired in the final 15 minutes – a 2-1 loss by a patient Red Bulls teams picking out their moments to strike. Once the goals came for the Red Bulls, they began controlling the tempo and regained much of the possession it conceded throughout the first and second half. They found the goals they were looking for and began controlling the clock.
“We came in at halftime really pleased by the way we played. We knew that they’d bring a little more pressure in the second half. We just weren’t able to finish it out,” Atlanta United captain, Michael Parkhurst, said after the match.
“We weren’t clinical enough up front when we had big opportunity and then to give away a set piece was disheartening. And then the red card as well. We have to learn from it and we will.”
Regardless, the league was introduced to a new crop of young designated players that MLS veterans are aware will create tough matchups. But, patience is key. Unfavorable results may follow much like it has with any other expansion club in MLS. Tyrone Mears, a veteran fresh off winning MLS Cup with the Seattle Sounders believes the best is yet to be seen.
“It’s going to take time to gel together, to get the best out of this squad. It’s going to take a little bit of time. We’ve got to keep our heads up, take the positives, and like I say, we’re only going to get stronger,” he said.
Greg Garza also praised the talent on the club, but also recognized that it created a challenge the team couldn’t overcome Sunday night.
“A lot of talent. I think I’ve said that from the very beginning,” Garza said after the match.
“Having so many young players on the field, the most important thing in soccer is fighting out the entire 90 minutes. So I think maybe we lacked a little experience there and hopefully we can keep using these games to keep us going and pushing forward.”