Atlanta United’s 2020 finally came to an end on Wednesday night after a 1-0 second leg win over Club America in the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals. While the victory offered many positives, it wasn’t enough for the Five Stripes to overcome a 3-0 aggregate deficit, thus officially ending their season. Here are a few final thoughts on the match itself and the road ahead.
- The team came out in this match with an intensity and purpose we haven’t seen in quite some time. Was it the month’s long rest and fresh legs? Was it the inevitability of a new manager’s pending arrival? Was it simply Club America sitting back on a 3-0 lead? No matter the cause, the overall performance on the night was a revelation and proof that this group is capable of being successful.
- Now that the season is over it’s finally time to turn the page to a new beginning. We’ve all heard the rumors by now. It’s extremely likely that Gabriel Heinze will become the third-ever permanent manager in club history very soon. You have to believe he had his eye on this match and is evaluating which players he wants to take with him on this new journey and which ones he wants to discard. The next few months should tell us a lot about what he and the club thinks about the current group of players. Moves will inevitably happen both incoming and outgoing.
- As for who may have helped their cause during this match, Fernando Meza had a standout match in the back. His distribution, in particular, will likely be something Heinze can work with. Another exciting performance was that of debutant Erik Lopez. While he didn’t put on a highlight reel performance he showed glimpses of his natural talent around the box with some very nice touches and combination play. For a player who hasn’t played a competitive match in six months he made a good first impression. Then, of course, there’s Franco Escobar who continues his great run of form.
- We can’t not mention the moment of the match and arguably one of the best moments of the entire season. George Bello setting up Jackson Conway for his first-ever professional goal. The homegrown-to-homegrown connection is in some ways the perfect note to end the season on. Bello’s 2020 was nothing short of outstanding while Conway looks like a real threat in the box, something this team sorely needs outside of Josef Martinez.
- All-in-all, you really couldn’t have asked for a better way to finish out the schedule. Sure you want to win every tournament you enter, but this was the most realistic outcome you could expect considering the circumstances. Everyone is now able to go into the long offseason on a high note with a sense of optimism and hope. The 2021 season really cannot get here quick enough.