Atlanta United cruised to a 3-0 victory away to Sporting Kansas City on Sunday night to earn their first two-game winning streak of 2019. It was a glowing performance for the Five Stripes that should relieve a lot of worry and stress that many have been feeling about their outlook for this season. Here are a few thoughts on a fun night away from home.
The Boat Show
Ezequiel Barco was everything in this match. He had a huge hand in all three goals the team scored and he put in a tireless effort on defense as well. This continues the trend we’ve pointed out many times over the past few months. This is a completely different player than the one we saw last season. Rarely do you see a player go from being the butt of jokes to a team’s most important player in such short span of time. His confidence is off the charts right now and his talent isn’t far behind. Everything he tries seems to be coming off and it’s a pure joy to watch.
Unfortunately for Atlanta United, Barco now departs the team for a month while in the best form we’ve seen him in. His time at the U-20 World Cup could be very fruitful for the club if he continues his current form. But, if something happens and he gets injured or returns and has fallen out of form, it could be another obstacle in an already tumultuous season.
How they go about replacing Barco’s production while he’s gone will be crucial. Pity Martinez showed glimpses of his talent tonight and appears to slowly be gaining some chemistry. The attacking and creative onus will fall on him with Ezequiel away from the team.
We’ve heard the same narrative over and over again since February. The transition from Tata Martino to Frank de Boer will require patience. The two styles that the managers favor are drastically different. However, it’s always easy to say the words but very hard to practice them when it comes time. I was worried about how the team was responding to De Boer’s teachings. Did this team have the right mix to fit what the Dutchman wanted to do? This match has been the best evidence so far that indeed they do.
They were confident in possession, dominated the match, created plenty of chances and finished them. This is how De Boer wants his teams to play. Atlanta got to counter a few times and it reminded us a bit of Tata Martino’s team. But the majority of the match was played in KC’s end with Atlanta methodically picking their spots to pounce.
Even though this is the first time all season the team has won back-to-back games, this makes three wins in their last four. You could argue that the one loss was really unlucky too. It seems to be starting to come together and that’s reason for excitement.
Parking On The Left
Michael Parkhurst started this match at leftback over Brek Shea. With George Bello now officially out with a long term injury, could this be the answer to Atlanta’s fullback woes? It’s obvious that Atlanta’s captain is in the last year(s) of his career and cannot get up and down the flank like a traditional leftback. However, his veteran presence, leadership and reliability is invaluable to have out there. His calming influence was apparent and the back line overall had a very good showing.
Ideally, De Boer would have a leftback available that could bomb down the flank and whip in crosses if needed. Shea’s struggles have been obvious and with Miles Robinson’s emergence and Franco Escobar’s return from injury, Parkhurst has nowhere to call home in the lineup. Sometimes playing players out of position is bad. Sometimes common sense needs to prevail. Having Parkhurst in the lineup, even if it’s not his best position, just makes the most sense currently.