Atlanta United capped off an otherwise successful, busy stint of games with a disappointing loss to a team that looks like a parked school bus from a city where they play a lot of newfangled pop-country music. It wasn’t the result any supporter wanted and it snapped a four-game winning streak, but we’re now almost a full week into an international break that gives the team time to recalibrate. Besides the ones who moved on to international duty, most players benefitted from a couple of days rest after the loss as part of the agreement with MLS to make up lost off days from the Heinze reign.
Of course, four Atlanta players traveled with their respective national teams to the World Cup Qualifiers: Miles Robinson, George Bello, Josef Martinez, and Ronald Hernandez. Though we’re just one game into this three match set during the qualifiers, this is potentially an opportunity for one Miles Robinson to pad his value a bit as his quality becomes clearer in every match he plays. I personally haven’t heard any specific rumors of other clubs knocking on Atlanta United’s front office, but Miles clearly has the skill to make the move to Europe.
I also still haven’t received an update on Josef’s shirt or whether he’s invited Hulk Hogan to the Benz to actually make the shirt-rip his new goal celebration, but I sincerely hope we don’t have to see that sort of frustration out of Josef for the rest of the year.
All that being said, here are the three things to know about Atlanta United this week.
- A Tough Start to Pineda’s Head Coaching Career
Everyone wanted Gonzalo Pineda to come in and absolutely lead an Atlanta United side to a dominating win over Nashville. I’ve said it before though, and I’ll say it again, Nashville played their style of game and made a chance count when it mattered the most. Plus, they’re not exactly a terrible team. They were heavy on defense, Atlanta’s midfield struggled, and the attacking side just couldn’t make shots on goal. Gonzalo Pineda did, however, make a slight change late in the game which looked to possibly give Atlanta an equalizer, but it was too little too late. The problem now arises in determining how Pineda will field “BAMM” (Barco, Araujo, Martinez, and Moreno) when the lack of midfield support is blatantly obvious. There are possibilities, so it will be intriguing to see what Pineda’s tactical mind brings to the pitch. Speaking of Barco, I have to mention that he was named Atlanta United’s performer of the month with his three goals and three assists.
Not all was terrible in the Nashville game, though. Luiz Araujo looked dangerous once again, and his abilities on the ball are sure to put other teams on notice. Since Atlanta will likely be without Josef for their next game, the attack is seemingly going to fall heavily on Luiz, with Mando Moreno and Barco assisting in the build-up. His presence on the ball will likely afford others more space in which to operate. Plus, after seeing the style Araujo plays, it just FEELS like his first goal is going to be a beauty.
Regardless, Atlanta has to bring back the reputation of Mercedes-Benz Stadium as being the worst possible place in the league to be an away team. The club has another full week of training before they face Orlando City there on Friday, September 10th. Prayerfully, they figure out how to get this attack clicking.
2. World Cup Qualifiers - USMNT and Venezuela
The USMNT and La Vinotinto both played their first games of this international break on Thursday. The United States held out in a hostile environment to a 0-0 draw with El Salvador, while Josef Martinez and the Venezuelans took a tough 3-1 loss to Argentina and Lionel Messi. A 32nd minute red card to Adrian Martinez (with Messi taking the brunt of the a studs-up challenge) made the match an uphill battle for Josef’s countrymen. A late consolation PK goal erased Argentina’s clean sheet.
Meanwhile, over in San Salvador, the U.S. Men’s National Team played against a passionate El Salvadorian squad in a game that saw Miles Robinson almost pull off a repeat of the header he sank to win the Gold Cup. Alas, the early shot wasn’t quite on target, and the U.S. continued to miss some very good opportunities. Defensively, though, Robinson continued to be a stout wall and he played some excellent balls out of the back, including one that led to probably the best chance of the game for the away side. Again, he’s making Atlanta United look good and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s off to a European side before this time next year. Here’s to the USMNT’s next match against Canada at the home of the aforementioned school-bus squad.
3. Atlanta United Gets a New Puppy
I’ll be the first to say that I love what Atlanta United is doing with America’s VetDogs. I’ve spent a significant amount of time in my life working with dogs, so they hold a special place in my heart. If you don’t remember, Spike was Atlanta United’s first pup, who was being trained alongside the club before he was to be paired with a veteran or first responder with disabilities. It was recently announced, however, that Spike had developed a medical condition that essentially forbids him on a technicality from becoming a full-fledged service dog. Therefore, he gets to retire early to his trainer’s home and live out the freeloader life (maybe he’ll still have some cameos).
Enter the newest addition to the team and the club’s second pup: King (I personally liked the name “Rowdy” better, since the King is already crowned at Atlanta United, but it is what it is).
He's here & he's perfect— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) September 1, 2021
Welcome, @ATLUTDPup KING pic.twitter.com/5O5cAfJhU4
King will be trained here in Atlanta, and he’ll make appearances at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and other club events. It seems many people don’t realize that this isn’t just for the fans’ benefit; service dogs have to be heavily socialized from a young age to effectively do their jobs, so what better place than the Benz to bring a puppy who needs some people exposure? Barring any unforeseen circumstances, King will eventually head back to America’s VetDogs’ campus to finalize his formal training and be matched up with a service member. Bravo, Atlanta United.
There you have it, folks. Hopefully next week we’ll get some more insight into how training is going, and it would be really nice to hear an update to Santiago Sosa’s injury. In the meantime, all eyes are focused on these World Cup qualifiers, so perhaps we’ll have some more good news from one of the four Atlanta stars helping their teams move forward to Qatar 2022. ‘Til next week.