There is just... so much soccer happening. So much of it. There’s the Women’s World Cup, the thrift store version of Copa America, the Copa America, the Africa Cup of Nations, the US Open Cup, and Major League Soccer.
If nothing else, watch the Women’s World Cup, it is tremendous and fun and entertaining and a very good way to watch soccer and bail on work in the middle of the day. Plus, the US is in it this time and is basically deploying a YOLO attack first, second, and third mentality that will either be spectacularly successful, or spectacularly unsuccessful, but it will be spectacular.
Hopefully, all this leads to the next frontier of soccer in Atlanta - a team in the NWSL. I think the city and fans would be ready for it and Arthur Blank does nothing but succeed at everything he does. Not only that, but the rest of the world is going to catch up and the USA will need an expanded league, with more competition, and better facilities if it’s going to keep pace.
Anyway, here’s about 1,000 words vaguely related to Atlanta United and whatever else I’ve been thinking about for the last week and a half.
Toronto Fail Children
It’s been hard for Canada recently. First they got upset that Americans were happy about scoring goals in a World Cup and then they became the property of Rob Usry after getting eliminated from the World Cup by a Bunch of Cowards.
Shout out to Canada for showing incredible sportsmanship and not celebrating any goals today. Class.— Rob Usry (@RobUsry) June 24, 2019
That and their MLS season ended after the last time they played Atlanta United. Before that, it seemed like it was going pretty well. Michael Bradley had done enough to keep the team competitive while Jozy Altidore was hurt again and the team waited for Alejandro Pozuelo to show up and be the next Giovinco. Then Pozuelo showed up and started banging goals and Altidore got healthy and started banging goals and it was all maple syrup and Nickleback in Toronto. Kawhi Leonard probably saw one of their highlights on accident and got so excited that he exclaimed “ok” in a fit of jubilation after watching it.
Then they played Atlanta United and everything changed. Jozy had acquired his annual injury and Ayo Akinola was in his place. Michael Bradley was in midfield but without Jonathan Osorio and Marky Delgado there to hoist him above their heads and run him down the field he was fairly ineffective. Then there was Pozuelo. It seemed like TFC had found The Answer - a guy who washed out of La Liga had arrived and it seemed like he was poised to make up for all of TFC’s many shortcomings and carry them to where they were in 2017, or at least 2015. And then he met Eric Remedi who marked him out of the game in Atlanta and may very well have marked him out of existence, because Pozuelo hasn’t been seen since.
After losing to Atlanta 2-0, Toronto has not won in their last seven games. Part of that is due to the fact that when presented with the choice of resting last weekend during the international break knowing Bradley and Altidore would probably be at the Gold Cup, Toronto decided to see what would happen missing two of their best players. What happened is the lost badly to Dallas 3-0. Since this is MLS and Orlando City is in the league and 7,506 teams will make the playoffs now, that only means that TFC is in 7th. So maybe Pozuelo did bring them back to 2015.
Everyone is hurt or with their national team but Brandon Vazquez is good now so it might not matter
I’m supposed to tell you the second half of the season is going to be tougher, but Atlanta is going to play some teams that would have trouble against Saint Louis FC in the next three matches. Before that, they have to play Toronto and do it without their best player - Josef Martinez - and best playmaker - Ezequiel Barco - and best bench supersub who would probably start for every other team in MLS - Tito Villalba.
That will no doubt make things more difficult, but there’s a solid sign that things might be OK. It turns out that at 6’3” with a build like the Incredible Hulk, Brandon Vazquez’s best position is not the wing - it’s center forward. At least against teams that can only field five internationals, Vazquez has shown he’s up for putting the ball in the net while Josef is away scoring game winners for el Vinotinto. He’ll have to show he can do it against the likes of... well four defenders who are past their prime when he matches up with Toronto.
As far as what to expect out of Atlanta, it seems like the team should be able to put forward the kind of performances it did going into the break. However, due to injury or national team duty, the starting XI might look like a hybrid US Open Cup/first choice squad more so than just the best XI. That could be looked at as a different kind of test for the Five Stripes. Dion Pierria will need to put forward another good performance, and even step up his game to fill the role left by Barco or Tito. However, the most important player for Atlanta in the game might be Julian Gressel. The winger will be the most experienced Atlanta player in the attack and he will have to both work off of Pity Martinez to create chances and cover for the Argentine defensively. It is shaping up to be a busy night for no. 24.
It’s a puppy
I couldn’t think of a good meme this week since I’ve written 5,000 articles since the start of June (are you watching the Women’s World Cup yet?), but here’s a picture of Brandon Vazquez with a puppy until I come up with something.
The Number Four With A Smile
While Toronto is bad and Atlanta is hurt, in the end this is an away match in MLS in a game played in a different country. For Atlanta it’s at a stadium they’ve never won at against an opponent who still has a creative player that can boss a game by himself. If Pozuelo somehow re-emerges and the cobbled together Atlanta front four struggle to create anything, it could be a frustrating night for the Five Stripes.