Atlanta’s road form could reach historic levels
Winning on the road is supposed to be a difficult task in MLS, but Atlanta is starting to make it look ho-hum. Saturday night, the Five Stripes built on its scintillating road record this season when it traveled to Stade Saputo in Montreal to win its seventh road match in 11 attempts. The team’s only two road losses were a woeful season-opener at Houston and a last minute collapse at Dallas—two outlier results. If Atlanta keeps this pace through the remainder of the season, it will surely reach a historic road mark in the league.
The record for road wins in a season is 10, set twice by D.C. United in 1997 and 1998. Since then, several teams have managed 9, but to but recent history into perspective, Atlanta has already matched the highest amount of road wins since 2015. There are seven teams in MLS this season right now who only have a single road win. Atlanta has six road games left:
- Orlando (1.05 ppg)
- D.C. United (0.94 ppg)
- Colorado (0.81 ppg)
- San Jose (0.62 ppg)
- New York Red Bulls (1.95 ppg)
- Toronto FC (1.05 ppg)
Earning four wins from these six matches and setting the league record for road wins is a distinct possibility.
Eric Remedi will compete for a first team spot sooner than expected
One of the standout performers from Saturday’s 2-1 win was one of Atlanta’s surprise starters in newly-acquired Eric Remedi. The Paraná, Entre Rios native, by way of Buenos Aires, stepped into the first team and immediately looked like someone who’s been playing with five stripes on his shirt all season. It was hard not to be reminded of the dearly departed Carlos Carmona when watching Remedi hustle around the field putting out fires as Montreal pushed forward. Remedi helped circulate the ball and maintain possession when Atlanta built attacks of its own. The club made it seem as if Tata Martino had little to do with the identification of Remedi as a potential acquisition in the summer transfer window, but boy did he look right at home in Tata’s system. So much so that it’s hard to see him going back to the bench at the moment—he was that impressive. Atlanta looked no less competent in the buildup phase with two defensive-minded central midfielders on the pitch. On the other side of the ball, Atlanta looked comfortable defending and the numbers bear that out. Montreal only tallied 0.70 xG in their own stadium Saturday night (compared to Atlanta’s 2.93).
Josef Martinez’s scoring record is great for Atlanta fans. Is it great for the league?
Josef Martinez continued his goalscoring tear Saturday night, adding two more to his season-long tally to bring the total to 24. To put what he’s doing in perspective a bit, let’s recap what he’s done on his recent streak to vault him into record-breaking territory.
Josef has scored in 10 of his last 11 games, scoring 16 goals overall in that stretch. He has now scored in six consecutive matches, which is tied for sixth in league history (Diego Valeri holds the record at eight). Also ranking sixth all-time in MLS is Josef’s current season goal tally. Today is July 29th. He’s not going to break the single-season record, he’ll smash it to pieces.
So for Atlanta fans, this is amazing. Atlanta would not have the success it’s had as a club without its Venezuelan sensation leading the line. But is Josef’s goal return good for the league as a whole? Does it make a mockery of the level of defending in the league? Is his success something the league will want to pin front and center as it markets itself to the world? I’m not sure what the answers to these questions are, and my asking of these questions doesn’t inherently make them true to begin with. But they are questions worth thinking about.
Tito Villalba showed he can be effective on the left
Along with the inclusion of Remedi in the staring XI Saturday night, one of the other big surprises—and without doubt the biggest talking point among fans during the hour before —was Tito Villalba listed at left wing in Tata Martino’s 4-2-3-1 formation. It’s the first time the Argentine had been listed as starting on the left side under Tata Martino in Atlanta. Many fans, including some of us on this website, had been clamoring for this move going all the way back to last season, as Tito found success when he’s drifted over that way during matches. Saturday night’s performance wasn’t perfect from the Argentine, but Villalba certainly showed he can be very effective in that position. And maybe he’s more versatile than we’ve been lead to believe, as he assisted Josef Martinez perfectly with a left-footed cross to open the scoring.
Leandro Gonzalez Pirez has found his consistent midseason form
Two seasons in, and we’ve now seen two similar patterns from Leandro Gonzalez Pirez’s form. Both this year and last year, when the team as a whole was less familiar with Tata Martino’s tactics and there were new faces in the squad, LGP struggled (to an extent). He was erratic and more error-prone. In both seasons, as the team grew more cohesive, LGP became more and more reliable until he was widely seen as one of the team’s standout performers and someone who was putting out far more fires than he was creating. It makes me think that some of the struggles we’ve seen from him early in the season this year and last aren’t purely down to his ability or his level of performance. Center backs can easily become scapegoats, because when their teammates pass them the ball under pressure and put them in vulnerable positions, it’s easy for them to look silly. It’s clear now that when LGP and the team are playing at their best, he’s one of the best center backs in the league.