With Decision Day not far away, Atlanta United is sitting on the cusp of its fourth playoff run in five seasons. The week didn’t quite go the way the Five Stripes wanted, as they could have truly clinched their playoff spot with a win earlier in the week. A terrible match against Toronto was the true bad taste of the season, but the club was able to weather a rough storm in New Jersey against the Red Bulls to take a point and set up for a “somewhat” less stressful match in Cincinnati. Furthermore, it appears that the Thiago Almada transfer is all but set in stone, and though there likely won’t be an official announcement for some time, all signs are pointing to the young playmaker arriving in the ATL this winter. That being said, it’s time for the last regular season recap of everything you need to know about Atlanta United this week!
- Atlanta Gives Up a Late Lead to Toronto Last Saturday
There is no other way to label this match other than a terrible missed opportunity. Soccer is a funny game; there are no guarantees. But Atlanta should have absolutely routed Toronto in the final home match of the regular season. The Five Stripes gained an early lead thanks to Luiz Araujo’s pressure on Toronto’s goalkeeper which forced a glaring mistake.
Atlanta United continued to press Toronto and create a multitude of opportunities, but the ball never again found the back of the net to create the insurance goal. Toronto, on the other hand, was able to strike on a pinball set-piece in the dying moments of the game to keep the Eastern Conference playoff standings extremely tight (and worrisome) going into the Wednesday match against the Red Bulls. The final score was 1-1.
The whole ordeal truly felt like a loss and verified the two glaring issues plaguing this team: finishing chances and defending late game scenarios.
2. Atlanta All But Guarantees a Playoff Spot After a Draw Against Red Bulls
Shortly after the Toronto mess, the Five Stripes loaded up to go play their regular season nemesis: the Red Bulls. It turned out to be a rather divisive match for the fanbase, as some people saw it as a necessary, ugly draw, and others saw it as a step back from attacking soccer. Opinions aside, Atlanta unofficially punched its ticket to the playoffs with the hard fought draw, so in that sense it should be considered a win. Additionally, after the defensive follies of recent games, the guys showed they could hold out against a very ugly high press for a full 90 minutes.
The game wasn’t without its scary moments, however, but thankfully the Energy Drinks didn’t capitalize on a couple of decent opportunities. Brad Guzan came up big once again, and he’s going to play a massive part in the upcoming playoffs.
If the Toronto draw felt like a terrible loss, this one felt like a win. Pineda made some conscious changes for this match specifically, and while Atlanta didn’t own possession like it wished, it did hold true to the game plan of frustrating NYRB. The doom-and-gloom viewpoint because of the terrible numbers and lack of attack only tells part of the story. At this time of the season and at this stage of success, the team played the safer game of fighting for a point to essentially secure their playoff spot. The result kept the Red Bulls down, too, and that’s always a win.
3. Thiago Almada Transfer Rumors Pouring Out
If last week reignited the Thiago Almada rumors, this week has more or less solidified the news. It’s being reported by multiple sources that the young Argentine playmaker will be contracted by Atlanta United until 2026. From a pure talent standpoint, this is a huge signing. It’s already been well documented about the young man’s personal follies in his home country, and how that could affect anything in Atlanta remains to be seen. The club and fanbase need only hope he arrives with a desire to put this team ahead and win another cup, while leaving any drama behind. His playmaking contributions could be a game changer for the Five Stripes and MLS as a whole.
[CONFIRMADO] Thiago Almada jugará en el Atlanta United.— César Luis Merlo (@CLMerlo) November 5, 2021
*️⃣El futbolista ya acordó el contrato con su nuevo club hasta diciembre de 2️⃣0️⃣2️⃣6️⃣.
*️⃣El arreglo por la compra del 100% entre Vélez y la institución de estaba listo desde agosto.
*️⃣Se ✍️ semana próxima. #TratoHecho pic.twitter.com/Uh8MDJOsrO
Atlanta United will head to Cincinnati this weekend to finish off the regular season against the classic Wooden Spoon winner. The only pressure in the matchup is to dominate Cincinnati to give some momentum headed into the playoffs, as the only way the Five Stripes don’t make the postseason is if they lose to Cincy by 7+ goals. This is a great game to give the attack some fine-tuning and life as the international break approaches.
Speaking of the international break, Miles Robinson and Ronald Hernandez have both been called up once again. George Bello, on the other hand, was not included in the roster this time around. This may be a good thing for the young winger, as he’ll get a couple of solid weeks training with the team this time around before the playoffs start. That’s a much better alternative than doing a ton of traveling and only getting to play for a half.
And those are your things to know about Atlanta United this week. Buckle up, y’all, the postseason starts soon.
Also, congratulations to the Atlanta Braves for bringing the city the second championship in three years!