Despite failing to win the game on the scoreboard at full time, Atlanta United had plenty to be happy about after it’s 1-1 draw in Charleston against Minnesota United Wednesday evening. The Five Stripes put together their most cohesive and dominant performance of the preseason, peppering Minnesota’s goal with shots throughout. A few thoughts on the game and performance.
Atlanta’s starters looked vastly improved from only days ago
Despite failing to put a shot past Minnesota goalkeeper Matt Lampson in the first half, Atlanta looked as sharp as they have all preseason Wednesday night. Ezequiel Barco and Miguel Almiron partnered together well for the first time, encapsulated perfectly by Barco slipping a through ball to Almiron for a clear cut chance toward the end of the first half. It was hard to call out a player who played poorly in the half, possibly due to the team reverting back to the familiar 4-2-3-1 formation with players in their natural positions. Chris McCann was back in central midfield and put in his best performance of the preseason (until it wasn’t). But other than that, everything functioned well. Interestingly, Darlington Nagbe played more on the right side of the pitch Wednesday, allowing more room for the interplay between Barco, Almiron and Greg Garza. Nagbe was influential in Atlanta’s possession play in the first half as Atlanta kept the ball away from Minnesota for long stretches. In defense, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez looked like he was in midseason form, and Jeff Larentowicz was solid playing alongside him.
Everything good for Atlanta went through Barco
The 18-year old Argentine was central to Atlanta’s attacking play throughout his time on the pitch. What’s maybe more promising than just the quality he showed on the ball was his interplay with teammates — Almiron and Garza in particular. Barco’s direct and precise dribbling at defenders causes a ton of attention and Barco did well to find teammates in space. He created chances and was fouled in the box for what should have been a penalty, had the correct call been given by referee Jose Carlos Rivero. He would not be denied though, and got himself on the scoresheet through, essentially, a great solo goal where he cut onto his right foot from the left wing and drilled a strike just inside the far post. Things will only get better from here for Barco.
Franco Escobar will complete Atlanta’s back line
Franco Escobar made his presence felt within minutes of making his first appearance for the Five Stripes in the second half. The Argentine showed his quality on the ball and his aggression and boldness off of it, throwing himself into challenges and passing lanes. Although we’re yet to see Michael Parkhurst this preseason, we can safely assume that he and LGP will form a similarly solid foundation at the back based on what the duo established last season. With everyone healthy, this team only has one, glaring hole in it. Hopefully that will be addressed in due time. In all other areas, this match was the uplifting experience we all needed after what we saw over the weekend.