Atlanta United wrapped up the Fourth of July at Bobby Dodd Stadium with some fireworks of their own -- scoring four second-half goals to come back from behind and beat the visiting San Jose Quakes 4-2 on Tuesday night. Here’s what we learned from the wild and wacky game:
Atlanta United is maddeningly inconsistent
Though we will all look back when we are older and tell our grandchildren how fun this game was, it wasn’t all fairies and butterflies. The home side didn’t look ready to play in the opening minutes and were punished as San Jose’s heavy pressure resulted in a 2nd-minute goal for the Quakes. After Kofi Sarkodie was sent off about midway through the first half, Atlanta still struggled to break down San Jose’s deep and compact defense. It was a struggle.
But as the definition of “inconsistency” suggests, Atlanta was equally as exhilarating and fun to watch in the second half. The game really opened up once Atlanta equalized at 1-1 through Carlos Carmona. Miguel Almiron with his head up and constantly looking to spring attacks, Josef Martinez playing full of verve leading the line and creating opportunities for himself and others — the second half was everything you hope to see out of this team. It’s a treat to watch.
Mentality after scoring is still an issue
Last week after the loss to Miami FC, I wrote this in the “What We Learned” column:
This one is a real head-scratcher. I usually chalk these types of things up to coincidence/randomness of the game, but Atlanta is establishing a serious trend here. I’ll leave it to the “capital J journalists” to dig up the exact numbers on how often we’ve squandered leads this year, but it’s happened far too many times this year. And it’s not just a failure to keep clean sheets, but we have a worrying habit of conceding very shortly after scoring ourselves. I can recall games at TOR, at MTL, at POR, and vs. Charleston off the top of my head where we’ve given up a lead within about 5 minutes of claiming it ourselves. I’m not sure if it’s a tactical or mental problem, but it’s definitely a trend at this point.
I have nothing to add to this, really. It’s still a problem, and it couldn’t have been more painfully clear after Chris Wondolowski equalized at 2-2 directly from San Jose’s kickoff after Atlanta had just taken the lead. (To be fair, it was an incredible goal.) It’s not that Atlanta isn’t aware of the issue either. Michael Parkhurst and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez could be seen having an intense talk just preceding the as San Jose were waiting to kick off. But it’s not only down to these two players. Defending is a team effort, and Anton Walkes and Kyle Reynish both could’ve done better — among others — to prevent the equalizer.
Anton Walkes is your starting right back, Atlanta
If this wasn’t clear to see prior to Tuesday night’s game, it is now. Let me preface this by saying that Walkes is still very clearly a work in progress. Having not trained much at RB during his time in Atlanta, he will naturally not have the technique to whip in great crosses or be super tidy in possession like Greg Garza on the opposite flank. But what you get is a young player who is very strong physically and has a ton of energy to get up and down the flank. He provides better balance for the team because of his defensive presence. Being a bog body, he also gives Atlanta a target in the box on corners and set pieces, which was obviously evident Tuesday as he nodded in the game-winning goal. He didn’t even have to leap for the ball, but was bale to power his way through bodies and use his aggressive instincts to win the header, and in turn, the game for Atlanta.
There’s a whole lot more to talk about from this game.... Referee decisions, player performances, etc., but let’s leave that for the comments for now. What did y’all think?