If we’re being honest, most Atlanta supporters and dumb soccer bloggers were pretty nervous heading into yesterday’s match against LAFC. With three regular starters in Franco Escobar, Greg Garza, and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez out, those feelings seemed to be warranted. However, the Five Stripes shook off their absences and put on a performance worthy of three points. Here are a few random thoughts from it.
Atlanta United has actual depth
This should make every Atlanta fan very happy. Yesterday was the first match in the club’s history where they showcased genuine depth at multiple positions. Chris McCann’s performance, although not as good as last week’s against Minnesota, was still serviceable as a backup defender. Mikey Ambrose seemed comfortable in a left wingback role he’s rarely been asked to play before in a 3-5-2, Romario Williams scored his first MLS goal in savvy fashion, and it turns out Miles Robinson is in fact an actual soccer player. These were astounding signs considering how much of an issue depth was last season. Speaking of Robinson...
Miles Robinson is a capable defender
All week, the idea of Robinson starting was met with criticism and nerves by many, but when his number was officially called upon by Tata Martino, the #2 overall pick of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft answered with a surprisingly good performance in his first ever MLS appearance. Knowing he’s able to come off the bench and contribute will only make Atlanta more stable at a center back position that has been known to fluctuate with the occasional injury or suspension.
Julian Gressel will force Tata Martino into a tough decision
The reigning MLS Rookie of the Year earned Man of the Match honors after yet another astounding effort from the right wingback spot. Martino is set on implementing the 3-5-2 as often as possible now, but where does that leave Gressel once Ezequiel Barco returns? There are only so many spots in a starting lineup, and with those two and Tito Villalba in the mix to get the nod either at RWB or as one of the two strikers, it seems like something has to give eventually.
Gressel may be the odd man out next week, but he’s making it as difficult of a decision as he can for the head coach.
Josef Martinez’s drought is over
It took him almost two whole matches to score again. I was getting worried.
Atlanta United has never been more confident
What’s more impressive than winning ugly in freezing cold conditions after being down to 10 men? Well, shutting down one of the most potent attacks in MLS while missing three starters who all play major defensive roles is probably up there. Also take into consideration that Martino was so confident in his team’s abilities in a 3-5-2 that he was willing to add a player with no MLS appearances and only a handful of USL starts into the starting XI and make it work wonders.
Oh, and by the way, the most expensive signing in MLS history likely returns to training next week. There’s certainly a lot for this team to be happy about at the moment.