Atlanta United asserted themselves well in the MLS opener Saturday against rivals Orlando City, earning a point on the road against a playoff team from last season. Overall the performance from Atlanta continued a series in which the team looked cohesive overall but failed to string together the key passes in the final third to create clear scoring chances.
GK Brad Guzan 6: For 72 minutes, it was an unremarkable game for Guzan where he didn’t have a ton to do. Had one obvious gaffe early in the second half that lead directly to a clear cut chance for Orlando. But then he did superbly to save a clear chance that should have given Orlando a lead at that point (Walkes also got a slight deflection on the shot).
LB George Bello 6: Bello was a constant outlet for Santiago Sosa spraying the ball wide, and he did well to receive and turn up field to combine with Marcelino Moreno. Was again caught out at times, but in this system, that’s just going to happen and not necessarily a fault against the player. Had a difficult task in trying to be Atlanta’s wide player on the left side while also keeping tabs on Ruan.
CB Miles Robinson 7: Extremely solid once again. His job was clearly to be the covering defender, which he did well out of possession. In possession, we saw the way his game has evolved, finding attacking players up the field with vertical passes on the ground.
CB Anton Walkes 7: Walkes had the freedom to play more aggressively and he did well to intercept passes and start counter attacks. IMO his distribution isn’t quite as clean as Robinson’s but he’s a very capable MLS center back and showed it today.
RB Brooks Lennon 7 (Man of the Match): Like his other teammates on the back line, that’s three straight solid performances from Lennon. It’s hard to pinpoint any obvious mistakes made, and he linked nicely with Mulraney on the right. Lennon delivered quality set pieces for most of the afternoon that were the best chances created on the day.
DM Santiago Sosa 7: Did excellently pinging long passes with his right foot to the left wing. Sosa is a nice relief valve at the back in that he’s always trying to find a way to make himself available for a pass and settle the play down when needed. Got bullied off the ball once in the second half that lead to a chance for Orlando.
CM Emerson Hyndman 6: Had a couple decent chances from the edge of the box, but overall played a more reserved central midfield role with his partner Barco driving forward more often.
CM Ezequiel Barco 6: Spearheaded the attack for most of the match, but Atlanta’s lack of crispness in the final third meant his playmaking (finding pockets to recieve the ball, turning and running with the ball into space, etc) often went unrewarded.
LW Marcelino Moreno 5: Still not sharp and a little awkward playing as a winger. He worked hard sprinting up and down to help Bello. A performance that wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t particularly good either.
RW Jake Mulraney 6: Mulraney was Atlanta’s most aggressive player running beyond Orlando’s defensive line trying to get in behind. It was a decent performance and he produced one nice shot on goal late in the first half, but too often there were no bodies in the box for him to play with.
ST Lisandro Lopez 4: Held the ball up well to link with teammates, but was unable to provide any forward thrust for the team in attack. It was especially noticeable when he would recieve the ball in transition with space to run, but he knows he doesn’t have the pace and was alternatively trying to find passing options.
SUB Machop Chol 6: Nearly got on the end of a Brooks Lennon cross late in the game with his go-go-gadget leg. Was generally a nuisance and gave Heinze what he would’ve wanted to see out of a sub on the wing.
SUB Josef Martinez 5: Martinez returned to MLS for the first time in over a year in the 75th minute. Was able to get on the end of a set piece late in the game but could not direct it on goal. Was an improvement overall from what Lisandro Lopez was offering at that point in the game.
SUB Franco Ibarra NA: Nice shot on goal from range late in the game.
SUB Jurgen Damm NA: