That was easy. Was that easy? That seemed easy. Too easy? The Galaxy started out the game promising, but then Jermaine Jones got mad and was predictably given his marching orders. Despite a shaky start, Atlanta United decisively took control as the Five Stripes continue to vault their way up the standings. Here are some things we leaned from the match.
Leandro Gonzalez Pirez’s return gave Atlanta solidity and confidence
After the Orlando match, we talked about how obvious LGP’s value is to the team through his absence — Atlanta looked discombobulated and shaky at the back. Wednesday night gave us the visual proof, with the Argentine back in the lineup, that his presence to the team is invaluable. Sure, Atlanta can still score plenty of goals without the center back, but the overall results are drastically different. Wednesday, the team looked solid defensively (aided by another opposition red card of course).
LGP doesn’t make the defense better because of his ability alone. Instead, his presence allows Atlanta to play in a shape that it’s familiar with, and gives Atlanta’s inexperienced fullbacks support that they desperately needed against Orlando.
With Atlanta forming a back three via Larentowicz, giving Tata Martino’s side three experienced center backs in defense, it gives McCann and Walkes more lisense to go forward. McCann knows he has LGP to his side as his backup and Walkes has Parkhurst. But not only does it give these fullbacks more freedom, but it also protects them. Neither McCann nor Walkes are highly experienced in the positions they played Wednesday night, so giving them the protection adds to their confidence on the pitch. Martino admitted after the Orlando match that he did not strike this balance, and he took the blame for the goals the team conceded because of it. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez’s inclusion sure makes his job a heck of a lot easier.
This Yamil Asad fella is #actuallygood too
Sure Josef Martinez has been all the rage lately, Miguel Almiron is Miguel Almiron, and TitotalFootball can’t stop talking about Tito Villalba.
If I can have everyone on Twitter sign an e-pledge to never F with Tito again, a rebrand might happen— Titotal Football (@TiotalFootball) September 21, 2017
Lately? Not enough love period. Guy is a baller. Has been all year, at every position. Are we due for some Tito love, absolutely.— Titotal Football (@TiotalFootball) September 18, 2017
Who are you calling a Tito home. [Cursor moves calmly but swiftly over to "Edit Profile" button as a nervous urgency grows]— Titotal Football (@TiotalFootball) September 18, 2017
Asad can be the forgotten man from time to time, doing the hard dirty work and not showing up so much on the stat sheet. Wednesday night was not that night. He was everywhere in the attack, wither scoring or assisting on every goal that was scored. Our own Josh Bagriansky wrote a very in depth piece on Asad and his contributions to the team that I recommend you check out.
And on top of everything he offers on the pitch, Asad is just a cool dude. He nonchalantly snacked on some postgame recovery hors d'oeuvres between questions with reporters. Later, he was mozied back from the showers holding his bluetooth speaker that was blasting the locker room tunes. The guy is just cool af, and I’m so happy he’s on our team. We need to clone Yamil Asad to form the all-Asad team.
Josef Martinez can’t not score in Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Even if he wanted to not score, he’s incapable of doing so. We have yet to see visual proof that he is capable of not putting the ball into the back of the net when he steps foot in the arena. This means, he has no option but to score, at least once, every time a game kicks off in that building. This means that, at the pace he’s on, he’s going to win the Golden Boot. Because he couldn’t not win it. Or something like that.
With Atlanta winning like this, does fixture congestion even matter?
If you made it through that Josef Martinez portion of What We Learned, congrats. You’ve passed the test, you are a loyal reader. Reward yourself with a prize of your choosing.
Anyway, I’ll finish with a somewhat serious point here. There was obviously concern heading into this busy period of the season for Atlanta United about whether the team would be able to cope with the physical demands of playing 27 games in a month, or whatever it is. But with the team able to run teams out of the building before halftime, they’re able to save their legs a bit and keep themselves fresher for games to come.
“The energy has been really good,” said goalkeeper Brad Guzan. “It helps when you’re able to win games the way we have been. Mentally, it keeps guys going. But we know the job’s not done yet, so we need to continue to keep focused, keep working hard and picking up points.”
And it’s not just the scorelines that help. Atlanta’s opponents keep picking up red cards, which is quite nice. Because the only thing better than playing with a four goal lead is playing with a four-goal lead and a man (or two) advantage.