Atlanta United needed to respond from a ugly performance at New York City FC a few weeks ago, one that both players and coach Tata Martino called their worst performance of the season. Behind three goals in seven minutes, they were able to deal their visitors a loss by the same exact scoreline - 3-1 - as the one they were on the wrong side of at Yankee Stadium three weeks ago.
Looking back, there was very little foreshadowing that would point to the forthcoming events of the first half. NYCFC had several chances in the opening minutes to go up 1-0, but couldn’t get the ball in the net. For NYCFC’s part, they and Atlanta matched each other in the sloppiness department (at least in the opening quarter of the match).
But the goals came quick and heavy. First came a terrific ball by Tito Villalba into the box to Julian Gressel, who nailed a perfect cross to Miguel Almiron for the first score in the 16th minute.
THIS IS MIGUEL ALMIRON'S WORLD. pic.twitter.com/6AzlJdpy9T— Dirty South Soccer (@DirtySouthSoc) May 28, 2017
Apparently, Tito felt a little left out and added a tally of his own on a terrific individual run into the box a little less than three minutes later.
Then in the 23rd minute: pretty much the exact same scenario of the first goal. Only this time, Gressel absoutely outhustled Alexander Callens in the offensive area, dispossessed him and nailed a charging Almiron with another perfect cross.
You have to like seeing Gressel playing out wide: it’s almost as if he’s a entirely different player at that spot, and the decision by Tata Martino to put him there has been the right one.
GRESSELMANIA TO MIGGYMANIA pic.twitter.com/VsqU9S1lpJ— Dirty South Soccer (@DirtySouthSoc) May 28, 2017
“My role is just different. It gives me a chance to get in more dangerous spots, or a lot of them more often,” Gressel said post-match.
“We all know what a great player Julian is. He’s a really important player for the team,” Almiron said of Gressel’s performance. “For us, it’s really important that he maintains the level of play he’s shown the last couple of games. Playing with Julian, Tito and Yamil (Asad) makes playing football easier.”
Curiously, the three goals for Atlanta were their only three shots on frame this evening (the same amount as NYCFC). Alec Kann did give up a goal to Jack Harrison on a bad giveaway on the other end on a United corner kick, but outside of that he was phenomenal - including a big-time stop of David Villa in the 36th minute. Atlanta were helped by a strong defensive performance by their backline, and while they weren’t tested a great bit for the balance of the match, they stood tall in the times where they needed to.
One of the common themes after the match was forgetting about the loss in New York earlier in the month. The club were determined to learn from the mistakes they made up North and leave Bobby Dodd with a win this evening.
“It was important. The game in New York City was our biggest disappointment of the year. It was our worst performance,” said Michael Parkhurst. “We got away from our style of play and wanted to atone for that tonight.”
“The loss to New York...was a game we wanted to forget,” Almiron said. “Now, thanks to God, the level of the team is increasing. We have more patience, and we were able to get a win today.”
Atlanta has two more matches away from Bobby Dodd coming up: at Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday and in Chicago against the Fire on the 10th. They’ll then return to the area for a U.S. Open Cup match against either USL affiliate Charleston Battery or the NASL’s Jacksonville Armada on the 14th before hosting Columbus Crew SC at Bobby Dodd on the 17th.