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Four thoughts on Atlanta United’s good players playing soccer again

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Good stuff, bad ending.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Toronto FC David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United lost 1-0 away to Toronto FC on Sunday night thanks to a very late Pablo Piatti winner, but that doesn’t matter. For the first time in a couple months, the Five Stripes fielded multiple Designated Players and looked somewhat competent in the attacking end of the field. Here are a couple of thoughts on the return of Ezequiel Barco and some promising signs for the future.

  • The plan for this match was obvious. Hold on for dear life in the first half, then throw the kitchen sink at them in the second and hope for the best. All-in-all, it was a decent idea from Stephen Glass. The first half was nothing to talk about, but when Ezequiel Barco and Marcelino Moreno stepped on the field to open the second half, the tone of the match changed drastically. Atlanta actually looked like a threat to do something in the attacking end, unlike they have for the majority of the season. Okay, so maybe they didn’t create a ton of clear cut scoring chances, but the remnants of a good attacking side could be seen through the crisp and intentional interplay between Barco and Moreno.
  • The building blocks for a consistently competitive and dangerous attack are clearly there. Moreno is a quality and versatile player who adds a calming influence in the midfield that hasn’t been there since the departure of Darlington Nagbe. No, he’s not the same type of player but the quality levels are in the same ballpark. Barco was Barco in his return. He’s never going to be the type of player who takes over a match by himself and dominates it. But it’s clear he also adds to the overall quality of the team when he’s on the field. Now it’s just about getting Josef Martinez back fit and also adding some pieces to the puzzle during the offseason in addition to finding the manager to place them.
  • For 45 minutes, the revamped Atlanta side went toe-to-toe with arguably the best team in the league. Sure they were shorthanded but they still had the incredible dynamic duo of Alejandro Pozuelo and Piatti. With a little bit of good luck, the result could’ve easily gone Atlanta’s way. If Cubo Torres’ header isn’t saved and Bello’s 1v1 defense on the goal is rewarded, perhaps things turn out differently. But that’s the story of this year for this team. That’s something to hang your hat on as you finish out this season and look towards 2021.
  • So, what have we learned? Playing good soccer players is important. The more good players you have, the better your chances of actually playing well on the field. What a concept. Let’s keep adding to that, shall we?