Atlanta United returned home on Sunday and rebounded from their disappointing loss to Colorado with a 2-1 win over newbies Charlotte FC. It wasn’t the most rousing performance of all-time, but sometimes it’s better to grind out the three points than play pretty and come up short. Here are a couple of thoughts on a fortunate but needed victory.
Rather lucky than...
Overall this was a pretty tame and average showing by the Five Stripes at home against a team that isn’t very good. They needed a second half stoppage time deflected winner from Jake Mulraney to ensure the three points. Taking nothing away from Mulraney, there’s no doubt that the team was fortunate to come away with full points from this one thanks to the massive deflection on the shot attempt. Still, the Irishman deserves credit for making the attempt and injecting some pace and directness upon entering the match. OPTA gave the Expected Goals edge (1.62-1.14) to Atlanta, but only slightly. So, it’s not like the home side was totally dominant and the winning goal was just a matter of time, they were lucky it did. Nevertheless, we must remember the team still isn’t in its full form yet with injuries and absences still mounting. It’s way too early to judge exactly how good they can end up being. Right now, however, it appears they are going to be an inconsistent bunch that could play brilliantly, horrendously, or decent on any given matchday. We’re just going to have to accept that truth for the time being until the squad reaches its full form.
There weren’t many glaring storylines to point out form this match, in my eyes, so I figured I’d just spout off some random thoughts that caught my attention. Andrew Gutman once again looked the part of huge threat down the left side. He could’ve had a goal early in the match after a brilliant run and pass found him in behind, but unfortunately he couldn’t beat the goalkeeper. His service into the box is, dare I say, Gressel-like. The variation of passes he attempts, from early balls in behind to clever cutbacks into space, is a breath of fresh air to this attack.
Brooks Lennon had possibly his best performance as an Atlanta United player in this one. His service was on point and his off-the-ball runs were superb. One of which earned his team the penalty that led to the opening goal of the match. It’s going to be very interesting to see what materializes with him and Ronald Hernandez at the right back spot once everyone is healthy.
Lastly, it was great to have Ozzie Alonso back in the fold. While he didn’t dominate this match like he did against Sporting Kansas City, it’s clear to see that it’s a different and much better side when he’s on the field. He just adds a calming influence in the midfield that’s been missing since the departure of Darlington Nagbe. While a totally different type of player than Nagbe, he’s the security blanket this team has sorely missed. It just happens to be a security blanket that will kick you in the teeth sometimes.
It’s not a rivalry. Stop shoving it down our throats.