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Four thoughts on Atlanta United’s win over FC Cincinnati

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Six points out of six ain’t bad at all.

MLS: FC Cincinnati at Atlanta United FC Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United extended their unbeaten run to start the season to four matches with a 2-1 win over FC Cincinnati in their MLS home opener on Saturday night. Ezequiel Barco and Emerson Hyndman once again found the back of the net in the victory, as they did a week earlier in Nashville. Here are a few thoughts on another satisfying win:

  • A Josef Martinez-less Atlanta United looks very different but also looks like it can be effective. Frank de Boer’s ideal style of play is technique, structure and discipline. Emerson Hyndman’s game-winner demonstrates exactly the way he wants his teams to play. Pass, move into space, pass again, find the open space, pass again, create a chance and hopefully score. It’s a far cry from Tata Martino’s high octane and fast-paced style but it can definitely work. With players like Hyndman, Barco, Pity Martinez and Matheus Rossetto around the box, Frank has the tools to play this style. With technical ability littered throughout the lineup, you can expect to see a lot more of this patient and calculated build-up play throughout the season. Especially without Josef up top to rely on for that one moment of brilliance, it will be a collective effort to score the goals.
  • Adam Jahn’s insertion into the lineup as a like for like replacement for Josef was quite interesting. The formation stayed the same but the ideas changed drastically. Instead of having the focal point of Josef and relying on him to be the end product of nearly every attack, Jahn acted as a facilitator most of the time. Whether it was dropping deep or dragging a defender to the touchline, his main goal was to open space for Barco and Pity to attack in. It worked wonders in the gif embedded below. Jahn may not offer the same level of end product as Josef, but he’s more willing to do the dirty work that needs to be done to allow others to succeed.
  • Matheus Rossetto’s debut in the second half opened my eyes to a possible tactical deployment we could see in the future. Many have pondered about a False 9 with Pity Martinez acting as the withdrawn striker/playmaker. However, Rossetto looks even more capable of playing that role if De Boer wanted to go that route. His back-to-the-goal play and ability to hold up possession while still being creative would suit that role perfectly. His talent is undeniable and the closer to goal you get him the better the chance he’ll have of making good things happen in the attacking end. So, his addition to the squad should give the coaching staff something to think about when it comes to adequately replacing Josef’s production in front of goal. To this idea, I offer this random thought:
  • I will conclude this thoughts session with a look at the defense. A big shoutout to Laurence Wyke who I thought performed admirably in his full Atlanta debut. It’s very unfortunate he had to leave early with a head injury. His distribution out of the back was a breath of fresh air. While his defending still needs polishing, it’s easy to see why the team decided to add him to the senior team full-time. On the whole it was an adequate defensive performance with one or three lapses. One of which gave Cincy’s Kubo a huge gap to laser a ridiculously well-struck shot that caught Brad Guzan flat-footed. With the team basically on their seventh string center back, it’s inevitable that there will be mistakes. We have to be patient with whoever is asked to fill in along the back line until the starters make their way back.