As one of my favorite characters in all of cinema might say: “GAME ON!” (That’s Garth from Wayne’s World.)
Atlanta United was back in action for the first time in more than 3 months with a preseason win over Nashville SC 3-1. The match turned out to be a damp affair both literally and figuratively with a waterlogged pitch at First Tennessee Park slowing down play considerably. Some might claim there’s nothing you can take away from a match like that. Hogwash I say! Here are a few things worth pointing out:
Chris Goslin looked better than Chris McCann at CM
Chris McCann — God bless him — looked like he was still rounding into form and fitness Saturday, especially in the first half when he was partnered with Darlington Nagbe in the middle of the park. To be completely fair to the Irishman, the field conditions for McCann were very poor, especially in the areas where he would normally be linking up with the back line to help build the attack from deep. However, there was something different about Goslin’s play that was very exciting. His energy and mobility in midfield over the final 15 minutes basically ended any good attacking moves for Nashville. And with the ball, the difference between the two is clear. Goslin was able to dribble out of sticky spots and picked out some great passes upfield for the likes of Brandon Vazquez and Romario Williams. He looked very confident and wanted to dictate the game. If he continues to impress throughout preseason, he may have a (small) role in the first team this season.
Darlington Nagbe fit right in with his new teammates
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the match was the amount of minutes played by Darlington Nagbe. The newly-acquired USMNTer played 78(!) minutes in his first non-competitive competition, lasting longer than every Atlanta United starter not named Leandro Gonzalez Pirez. That’s a lot of minutes for a midfielder seeing his first action of the season. Nagbe improved as the game wore on and finally grabbed an assist on the second goal as he carried the ball through Nashville’s half and laid off a perfect pass for Brandon Vazquez to calmly finish.
Darlington Nagbe, ladies and gentlemen. Brandon Vazquez with the good finish. 2-1. pic.twitter.com/7nluyXFYxC— Dirty South Soccer (@DirtySouthSoc) February 10, 2018
Another aspect of Nagbe’s performance that was eye opening was the realization that OMG WE HAVE DARLINGTON NAGBE ON OUR TEAM. Because quite frankly, all the offseason talk has been about some other fella...
Ezeqiel Barco’s skill is real
No player looked technically sharper than the new starboy from Independiente. On the ball, he was terrific, toying with defenders as he cut in from the left hand side. On one occasion, he rolled the ball out from under his feet toward a Nashville player, tempting him to take a stab at it. Once the defender fell into the trap, Barco quickly pulled it back and drove into space. But it wasn’t just his renowned dribbling that caught the eye. The Argentine released Martinez into space for a shot on goal with a perfectly weighted pass, and he looked dangerous taking set pieces with vicious speed and whip. While Barco didn’t look quite in sync with some of his teammates who play around him, like LB Greg Garza, CAM Miguel Almiron and Nagbe, that’s to be expected. That will come with time. In general, the early signs are very promising.