Atlanta United continued its impressive vein of form with an assertive 2-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy late Saturday night. Josef Martinez and Miguel Almiron got on the score sheet for the Five Stripes, who time and time again gave the Galaxy defense fits. Los Angeles, on the other hand, is fortunate the score didn’t look worse, and rarely seemed threatening in open play despite the presence of so many attacking players. This was a good game.
Chris McCann had Zlatan Ibrahimovic in his pocket
Hell yeah. Ok, credit goes to all of the back three in Atlanta’s defense for keeping the enormous Swede off the scoresheet. But still. In. His. Pocket. I don’t know about you, but my favorite part of the game was when the Irishmen left Zlatan on his ass.
hahahahahahahahaha mccann just left zlatan on the ground pic.twitter.com/ZNL30KpUWq— Joe Patrick (@japatrick200) April 22, 2018
In the end, Zlatan was only a threat on set pieces and pot shots from around the edge of the box. He was most dangerous in support at a target man, trying to flick the ball on to his attacking teammates. I’d say he won’t score more than 12 goals this season, but alas, he’ll take penalties.
Atlanta’s defense carries the team
I feel like we say this every week, but the play of Michael Parkhurst is under-heralded and we take for granted both his quality and his consistency. Game in, game out, Parker shows up. He plays with a quiet confidence that is borne from the fact that he actually knows how good he is.
Teams that can press high are the ones with CBs who can do this pic.twitter.com/2Ly8KULLsM— Joe Patrick (@japatrick200) April 22, 2018
A professional player doesn’t try to bring this ball down and evade an onrushing opponent if he thinks he can do it. They try it because they know they can do it. Parkhurst isn’t making as many glamorous (if you can call them that) sliding tackles like Leandro Gonzalez Pirez because he usually doesn’t have to. But pairing these types of defenders — both of which are very comfortable playing and passing out of the back — is an optimal way to build defensive strength in the team.
Ezequiel Barco is quickly becoming Atlanta’s most fun player to watch
Ezequiel Barco is the kind of player that gets you off your seat. The combination of the pace at which he can carry the ball and the deftness of touch with which he does it is remarkable. He has incredibly quick feet, and can both dart past a player with the ball or charge down an opponent without it. He looks like he has the best first touch on the team, and terrific vision to switch the field to Atlanta’s wide wingbacks. Several times, he was able to link up with Julian Gressel, who whipped in dangerous crosses all night.
Barco running with the ball is super fun pic.twitter.com/DRiuFgJbp8— Joe Patrick (@japatrick200) April 22, 2018
Credit Atlanta’s subs for icing the game
Sometimes, a 2-0 scoreline can make it seem like it was a comfortable game, but this one was needlessly tight from Atlanta’s perspective, the team hit posts, missed penalties, and generally didn’t convert on most of its good chances. But in the end, the players who finally sealed the game in the waning moments were Tata Martino’s substitutes. Kevin Kratz, who was nearly flawless in his 10-minute cameo, threaded a perfect ball through the Galaxy defense to find Romario Williams. Williams collected the ball and deftly cut the ball from his left to his right foot, and had his legs swept out from under him in the process. Williams even cleared a cross with his first touch of the game, immediately after coming in to defend a corner. Massive credit to these two. Sal Zizzo also played.
Franco Escobar is currently the odd man out
It’s hard to think that, as things stand right now, this is Atlanta United’s best XI. Of course, Tito Villalba will return soon, which will likely change things once he’s ready to start. I’d guess that Tito will start in place of Chris McCann and the team will play a 4-2-3-1. This is Atlanta’s best XI in my opinion, and that includes Gressel at RB. He’s shown no inability to get the job done defensively, and we’ve obviously seen the quality of his service. This, of course, leaves Franco Escobar on the bench for the time being. Unfortunate for him, but this kind of depth is exactly what the team lacked last season. It’s a good problem to have.