Atlanta United scored two late goals to overcome a two-goal deficit and a man disadvantage on Saturday to rescue a draw against CF Montreal. Gonzalo Pineda’s side looked down and out after a horrendous first half and a not-much-better start to the second half. With the clock ticking towards the final whistle, the Five Stripes conjured up some magic to pull a miraculous point out of thin air. Here are a few thoughts on a roller coaster of a match that brought back some nostalgic feelings.
It’s Like Deja Vu All Over Again
Close your eyes and think about this. Atlanta United hyper-aggressive in attack, wide open on counter-attacks and leaking comically bad goals despite looking dangerous going forward. While 2018 may have altered your perception greatly, this is very similar to how the Tata Martino era started out at Atlanta United in 2017. Talented players all over the field struggling to be cohesive and susceptible at the back. Fast forward to current times and that appears to be the trend developing in Pineda’s first full season in charge. The Atlanta United ethos is to attack at all costs and it certainly seems like they are buying into that. Unfortunately, it’s coming at a detriment to the team’s defensive stability much like it did in 2017.
Couple the aggressive style of play with a change in formation, it’s expected that there will be a period of adjustment required, especially for the centerbacks who’ve grown accustomed to a 3-back system. It was evident today that both Miles Robinson and Alan Franco have some learning to do to be able to make this shape work as Pineda hopes it does.
90% Of The Game Is Half Mental
Somehow this thoughts piece turned into a Yogi Berra cliche tribute. But it’s astonishing how much difference a season makes. Last year it was Atlanta United blowing late leads every way imaginable. Despite the horrendous meat of the match, it’s quite refreshing to be on the other end of a collapse like that. The mental toughness of this team seems to be much improved over the past several seasons. Other teams would’ve put their head down and waited for the final whistle to blow. This one fought to the end and managed to get something quite spectacular for their efforts. We can talk ad nauseum about analytics and statistical metrics, but sometimes the intangibles matter and this team showing heart and determination when things are going extremely poorly is a great sign for the future.
It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over
This subtitle has nothing to do with what I’m writing. I just had to keep the Yogi Berra theme going for the content. We all saw the negatives of this match, as there were plenty to dwell on and point out. However, we must also highlight the positives as well. First and foremost, what a stunning goal by Thiago Almada. Many have voiced their concerns about just how effective he may be in MLS, with the inevitable comparisons to Ezequiel Barco popping up. But that moment of brilliance is exactly what the club shelled out another MLS-record transfer fee for. It’s fine to be technically gifted on the ball or have the ability to pick out some passes. However, to be able to change a match with your individual skill is what makes the difference at any level of this sport. It’s why you spend the big bucks to bring skill players in. It’s obviously early days in Almada’s tenure, but this is the first sign that he’s capable of producing some magic when the club needs it.
Then there’s Josef Martinez. He finally got his first goal from the run of play on the season and was dangerous on several other occasions. It’s great to see him confidently finish a chance. Hopefully this now opens the floodgates and he can start banging them in with regularity like this team expects him to do.