Atlanta United kept its playoff hopes alive on Sunday night with a comfortable 2-0 win over lowly FC Cincinnati at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Adam Jahn and Marcelino Moreno found the net for the Five Stripes as they extend their chances of making the postseason to the final matchday of the season. Here are a few thoughts on a rather easy victory in a crucial juncture of the season.
- As the famous Kevin Malone line from The Office goes, it’s just nice to win one. After going six matches without a victory, Atlanta United cruised to a win over possibly the only team undeniably worse than them in the Eastern conference. This is not to take away from the accomplishment of winning, but the context of just how bad Cincinnati is has to be mentioned for fairness. The team has 11 freaking goals all season — two less than Ajax scored in a single match a week ago. Overall it was a fine performance from Atlanta. Nothing to get overly enthused about. It was simply a result that played out the way it should have.
- Marcelino Moreno once again proved his quality in this match, being a bright spot from the opening whistle. I don’t think he’ll ever be a top line megastar in this league, but it’s clear that he’s got tons of talent and will be a very important part of the rebuilding project going forward. His confidence on the ball and ability to make things happen are very exciting traits as we look towards 2021.
- Jurgen Damm falls into a similar category. He’s been a breath of fresh air on the right flank since finally finding some match fitness. His one vs. one ability is exciting to watch and his assist to Adam Jahn is proof that he can make plays. Hopefully once Josef Martinez returns and more attacking pieces are added, he’ll become even more of a dangerous weapon. The question for me going forward is: is he a locked on starter for this team? Or can you bring someone in to push him into a utility/super-sub role?
- One more player who deserves praise is Mo Adams. He went down with an injury in the first half against Cincinnati. While we’re not going to pretend to be doctors, it’s never good when a player grabs their midsection and immediately calls for a sub. If this is the last time we see Adams this season he has acquitted himself very well the last month of play. When we start to analyze who has earned their spot on the team for next season, for me, he’s a player that should have a place with Atlanta United in the future. He’s proven to be a useful defensive midfielder and his low salary cap hit makes him a valuable piece to have around.
- Playoffs? We’re talking about playoffs? So, yes, the Five Stripes are still alive for postseason contention heading into Decision Day. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is they have to go on the road and play one of the best teams in the entire league. For my money, when at full-strength, the Columbus Crew are the best team in the league. They proved it on Sunday beating the Philadelphia Union with Darlington Nagbe, Gyasi Zardes and Lucas Zelarayan all returning to the lineup. It’s a bit of a miracle that Atlanta even have this chance considering how poorly the season has gone. But it’s going to take an even bigger miracle for things to fall into place on Sunday. And it’s okay if it doesn’t.