The Five Stripes turned five seasons old, and our beloved club has a more storied past built. There have been plenty of good times we've experienced as 17s, and those of us who endured through the trainwreck-to-be that were the issues forming in 2019, and the subsequent trainwreck that was 2020, can appreciate those good times even more thanks to the contrasting pain we went through. 2020 sucked, even apart from all the real world doomsday level events off the field, but I really think it strengthened the fanbase in a way that a young, successful club like Atlanta might not have experienced otherwise. We experienced supporting a bottom feeding club that lacked leadership, talent, organization, a workable identity, and maybe most near and dear to Atlantistas' hearts, goals. But that made it so much sweeter for us to watch the club leadership realize the multiple places it had screwed up and really seriously work to fix it. We got new players in the form of Alan Franco, Moreno, Araujo, Sosa, Ibarra, and even Lopez. We got a new manager in Heinze who we were all hyped about until he showed how much he sucked, but Valentino stepped in and absolutely raised the bar on what an interim coach can do. In 2020 Glass was passionate and fun to hear through the broadcast in an empty stadium, but that was about it. For Rob to come in, get the players back on board, get the fanbase back on board, get our scorers back on the board, and keep spectators from being bored, while also being like "Yeah I'm not expecting to be coach I'm just setting up for the next guy" was incredible. And then the FO visibly changed their manager recruitment philosophy, opting to hire Gonzalo Pineda from the Sounders assistants' bench rather than another flashy international name to lead the squad.
Under Valentino and Pineda, Atlanta were the 2nd best team in the league by PPG, and in my opinion first in the league in entertainment value. We are very clearly no longer bottom feeders. There were and are still issues: conceding late goals, not putting teams away consistently, and lacking cohesion at times up top; but all of these are things that can be remedied by next year.
Yesterday, MLS posted Atlanta United's full goal compilation from 2021. I had a lot of fun remembering some of the great moments from this year. Josef's masterclass of a return goal nine minutes into his first start back against Miami, beating Orlando, Barco's world class free kick at the Benz, Moreno destroying an entire team to serve a goal to Bello on a platter, Moreno's last second finisher against Montreal, Walkes scoring more goals this year than Cubo did in his career here, Miles' first MLS goal, Josef's GOTY candidate, the list goes on. There were plenty of screamers for us to enjoy this year.
Personally, I'm just glad Atlanta is back to being Atlanta. Moreno is one of my favorite players we've ever had and I can't wait for my jersey I got on sale to arrive, all signs point to Josef getting 25+ goals in 2022, we'll surely miss Walkes but it doesn't look like the team is due for a total rebuild for the first time in at least two years, and there's nobody I REALLY want to go (I wouldn't even be mad if Damm returned). Bello seems to be on the way out to represent our quality at the highest levels, and Miles still probably does the same in the summer. Hyndman should see the field again, Josef should be healthier than he's been since his injury, and hopefully we get a backup striker who's better than Cubo or Jahn.
After looking through all the options , I've finally picked my favorite moment of the season: https://youtu.be/6PXVFatD8NI?t=302 . I'd love to hear some of ya'lls favorite moments, players, or goals.
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