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The Five Stripes Recap: Week 2

3.5 newsworthy notes on Atlanta’s second week

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Colorado Rapids Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

After the initial high from Week 1’s win over Sporting Kansas City, Atlanta United found themselves on the losing end of a rather strange day in the world of football. They traveled to Colorado and apparently stepped through some voodoo from the moment they walked off the plane, and their entire plan went haywire. For days since we’ve been filled with intrigue, curiosity, and hope to whether reinforcements will arrive prior to the first edition of the potential rivalry/derby (more on that later) between Atlanta United and Charlotte FC. Though no one but Pineda can pin down the 18 to enter the Benz this weekend, we’re going to have fun trying. Here is everything you need to know about Atlanta United’s Week 2.

Before we dive in though, take a moment to send thoughts/prayers to those affected by the absolute stain on this beautiful game that occurred last Saturday in the Queretaro vs Atlas match in Mexico. That has no place in this world, much less this sport. Period.

Atlanta Falls to the Colorado Rapids 3-0

I won’t beat a dead horse on this. Atlanta didn’t play badly. Colorado deserved the day but didn’t play...great, either. In fact, Atlanta looked to be the better team in most areas short of the one that truly matters: actually putting the ball in the back of the net. If this match had a theme for the Five Stripes, it would be that of missed chances. Josef Martinez uncharacteristically missed two great opportunities, and Tyler Wolff had an early chance thanks to a wonderful through-ball by homegrown George Campbell (who was playing as a defensive midfielder).

I purposefully mention this part of the story secondary to the missed chances: Atlanta United could have won with the starting XI Pineda put on the field, and the current lack of depth isn’t as huge of a factor. Don’t get me wrong, having a fully-healthy, first choice XI probably would’ve made a difference, but it isn’t a valid excuse in this case. Again, Atlanta looked to be the better side for most of the first half, barring some very serious individual mistakes that Colorado pounced on. Having to field players out of position shouldn’t be a huge concern for the Five Stripes because we’ve seen flashes of the team being able to step in and handle business; that’s the type of squad Pineda wants to cultivate. A one-dimensional game is not a hallmark of great teams.

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at Atlanta United FC Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to the teams stepping foot on the pitch, it was announced that Osvaldo Alonso was being held out of the match at the recommendation of a cardiologist. It’s unsure if this has to do with an altitude thing, a COVID thing, or any other potential issue, but ultimately all that matters is Ozzie gets healthy for his own benefit. If he can slide right back in to play, all the better. For the Colorado match, though, George Campbell moved up as a midfielder while the backline was held by Miles Robinson and Alan Franco.

Franco was less than stellar in the first half which, like Rob said here, is hopefully a microcosm of how he started his season with Atlanta last year. In a position that has historically been Atlanta’s strong suit, the center back pairing just didn’t cut it for this match. Miles Robinson was given a red in the waning minutes of the match for a highly unnecessary tackle that chalked up his second yellow of the day. This, in turn, led to the final goal of the match just one minute later and the nail in the coffin. Like I said before, individual mistakes and not finishing chances were the storyline, which is unfortunate because the day was actually filled with plenty of bright spots in terms of ball movement and one Matheus Rossetto.

Atlanta Gets Word on Receiving Some Backup

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Colorado Rapids Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The feeling around Atlanta United is that the team has the deepest unavailable squad around. Again, it isn’t an excuse for the Colorado match, but simply having more options is never a bad thing. Darren Eales hopped on Atlanta’s greatest sports radio network 92.9 The Game on Tuesday to share some insight into what roster might actually be available come Sunday against Charlotte.

The president mentioned on the Dukes and Bell show and Mike Conti reported that the aforementioned Osvaldo Alonso could be available, which assuages at least some of the concern of his cardiology issue. Furthermore, Franco Ibarra and Santiago Sosa are back in the states, and though Sosa likely has some more fitness to regain after the sport’s hernia surgery late last year, it’ll be nice to see either of them as other options for the midfield in the coming matches.

Marcelino Moreno was also noted to hopefully be available to start against Charlotte. If even half of what Eales’ stated comes to fruition, Atlanta’s midfield will already be looking much deeper than just a week prior.

And finally, the last tidbit from Darren was that they were hoping Thiago Almada would be in Atlanta in time for the match. Thursday afternoon Atlanta’s number 8 indeed touched down in the Deep South and immediately went to work at Children’s Healthcare Training Center before sharing a bit of love to the fans...and presumably having a camera mishap in the process.

Needless to say, it looks like Gonzalo Pineda is going to have some options to choose from for both a starting XI and potential game-changing subs on Sunday. It’s likely safe to say Sosa won’t make the 18, but it’s definitely not a stretch to see Moreno and Alonso potentially playing the majority of the upcoming match. And though Almada doesn’t have the time spent with the team under his belt, he could likely easily slot in as a super-sub late to hopefully ice the game. Who knows how the lineup will play out, but at least the reinforcements are starting to arrive.

Atlanta United 2 Win Final Preseason Match

The 2’s played their final preseason match against the Greenville Triumph on Saturday, which turned into a goalfest. After going down early, Atlanta rallied back to win 4-2 with David Mejia finding himself a brace, while newcomer Nicolas Firmino netted his first goal in a Five Stripes kit. It was a hopeful sign for a young team preparing for their first match tomorrow, March 12th against Louisville City FC.

And speaking of the 2’s, how about Aiden McFadden making his first appearance for the first team against Colorado? It’s such an amazing sight to see all of the newcomers, young faces, and homegrowns having their hard-work pay off by getting that taste of MLS so early in the season. Here’s hoping they continue to get opportunities and take full advantage.

P.S. What are we calling this Atlanta/Charlotte Derby?

Understandably, the entire Atlanta United and Charlotte FC fanbase want this budding rivalry to be huge. It only makes sense for so many reasons: geography, trash-talking, Deep South culture, and so much more. We may spend these days leading up to the match knee deep in name ideas and ultimately the name will be decided by something weird like Josef walking into the Benz wearing a Varsity hat or Pineda holding a massive cup of sweet tea during the match, but it’ll be fun regardless. With that being said, here are all the names I’ve heard and/or can think of, and I really want folks diving in BECAUSE THE TRUE NAME IS OUT THERE.

  • Cola Cup, Deep South Derby, Deep Fried Derby, King & Queen Cup (Derby), Bless Your Heart Bowl, Fried Chicken Cup (Chick-Fil-A and Bojangles), I-85 Derby, Sweet Tea Derby, Waffle Derby, Power Cup (Southern Power and Duke Energy), El Sur (The South), Piedmont Derby, and La Realeza (The Royalty).

So there it is, Week 2 of Atlanta United’s 2022 season. Gonzalo Pineda will make his media appearance today after training, so by the time you read this we may (hopefully) have more info on who’s going to be available Sunday. In the meantime, make sure you check out the 2’s on Saturday before the big match at the end of the weekend. Also, don’t forget to come listen in and hop into the conversation on our Twitter Spaces starting at 6:40 after the final whistle, we’d love for y’all to drop some questions either here or on Twitter for us all to dive into.