Talk about a wild card that paid off immensely. Andrew Gutman’s rise to power has been one of the brightest spots in a tough 2022 season for Atlanta United. Fans always have a sense of concern and cautious optimism when a new player arrives on a team, and that was distinctly noticeable as 2022 rolled around and previous left back George Bello departed for Armenia Bielefeld in favor of Gutman.
Andrew didn’t take long to cement himself as a fan favorite, though, due to his work ethic, heart, and ridiculous ability to somehow ghost into the six yard box completely unmarked. The bald baller took everyone by surprise and endeared himself to a fanbase that struggled to find much positivity during the season. Ask any fan or pundit about Gutman and they would likely all say that he’s a lock on donning an Atlanta United kit for the foreseeable future. If you listen to our Twitter Spaces show then you’ve already heard folks calling for Gutman clones to occupy the other 10 positions on the field so...yeah, the fans love him. Not to mention, he also just seems like a great guy to just go have a beer with, because his personality is very humble and laid back (an important statistic, if you didn’t know). Let’s take a look at his entire season as a Five Stripe and analyze the “free-floating fullback” position he apparently created.
Minutes: 1962 (25 matches played)
Goals: 4 (!)
What Went Right?
The simple answer to this question is “quite a lot.” In matches where Gonzalo Pineda played a 4-back system, Gutman developed great chemistry with just about everyone he partnered with. Caleb Wiley took full advantage of having Gutman’s experience behind him to get forward and be a bit more creative, while Gutman himself would occasionally slip into unoccupied spaces going forward and find himself on the end of some brilliant opportunities.
This didn’t necessarily change when he played as more of a traditional center back in the 3-back system. Gutman did a great job of being more selective in moving up the field, and he did it with startling efficiency. He may not be known for his dribbling prowess, but he had no issues squeaking away from some heavy pressure in key moments, and his stats (and the eye test) show he loves moving the ball forward.
Because it’s fun to talk about Gutman’s goals and goal contributions, it’s also easy to forget that he’s actually a defender...on paper. But his defensive stats didn’t suffer despite his affinity for forward movement; his ‘aerials won’, ‘tackles’, and ‘blocks’ categories are all solid. He received a standing ovation at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on opening day against Sporting Kansas City as he bulldogged an attacker out of the penalty area, and that tenacity continued throughout the season.
What To Improve On?
While this sounds contradictory for a full back, Gutman could’ve been sitting on about 8 goals in 2022 if his finishing were a bit better in the earlier parts of the season. Scoring the game winning golazo against Seattle, though, seemed to unlock a new level for Andrew, and he went on a tear shortly thereafter. If he focuses on fine-tuning his defensive capabilities further, he would elevate his team and the back line in an enormous way. But honestly, this is all nitpicking: if Gutman spends his time at the training ground with a mindset of always improving and chipping away at any weaknesses, he’s going to have an outstanding 2023 and beyond. Hard work and heart goes a long way in this game and he already possesses those qualities in droves, so now it’s simply a matter of ascending beyond his current form.
What Role Will He Play in 2023?
Gonzalo Pineda is going to have quite a few team choices to make depending on the new personnel coming in, but one constant should be everything about Andrew Gutman. Pineda and Gutman don’t really need to change much of anything when it comes to Andrew’s positioning and utilization. After a season of having little that worked the way it was supposed to, why change one of the few things that did, in fact, work rather well? I wouldn’t expect to see many changes when it comes to Gutman, except for perhaps the front office tacking another couple of years onto his contract.
Overall Player Grade: A
Make sure to leave your thoughts and comments below.