Home sweet home. Atlanta United came back to Bobby Dodd Stadium after a disastrous two-match road trip and got back to their winning ways with a 3-1 victory over fellow Eastern conference side Columbus Crew. It wasn’t the most inspiring of starts for Atlanta as they struggled defensively and in possession to open the match, but once they found their legs and confidence they were able to impose their will in the second half. Here are three things we learned from the big win:
Peachtree Pressing Perfection
Two of the three goals Atlanta scored on the night were a direct result of their high press creating turnovers deep in their attacking end. Yamil Asad did the dirty work on Tito Villalba’s first half opener and Kevin Kratz did the same on Josef Martinez’s late capper.
This is the way the majority of Atlanta’s goals are scored if it’s not from the rare lightning quick counter-attacks like Miguel Almiron’s game-winner. It’s the system we’ve been promised. Tata’s uber-aggressive, hungry to win the ball back pressing style has worked wonders at home for the most part. The trick now is getting it to be effective away from home.
Atlanta’s big-money guys are ... money
Once again, Atlanta United’s Designated Players all played crucial roles in the outcome against Columbus. Villalba, Almiron and Martinez — when healthy and able to play together — have been extremely productive. It’s been impressive just how much success all three have had. It’s rare you see all three DPs for a team contributing so much on a consistent basis. Maybe Toronto FC are the only team in MLS who can compare at the moment.
All three are newcomers to MLS but haven’t let that deter them from making a huge impact on a regular basis. Now that Josef Martinez is back and healthy, hopefully we can see just how good a full-strength Atlanta United can be.
Kevin Kratz has emerged as an important role player
In case you haven’t noticed, Atlanta’s upcoming fixture list is just dumb. Something like 45 matches in 46 days or something (slight exaggeration). Needless to say, the team’s depth is going to be tested. Thankfully, it appears that at least one midfielder is stepping up and taking advantage of his extra minutes. Kevin Kratz started against the Charleston Battery in the midweek U.S. Open Cup game and notched a goal. He came on as a second half sub to get Tito some rest against Columbus and created the third goal with some nice pressure and a heads up pass.
It’s extremely important that Tata has players like Kratz that he can give minutes to in important situations to spell some of Atlanta’s crucial players. Giving a player like Tito 30ish minutes of rest tonight could play a big factor come midweek at D.C. United. Or a 60-minute shift to spell Miggy down the line. Kratz looks to be someone Tata can trust judging from these past two matches. Now it’s just a matter of finding more role players like him that can play important minutes when needed.
NOTE: Apologies for the abbreviated post. I’m so sick and need sleep. Please fill in anything I missed in the comments. Yay winning!