Week 4 of the MLS season provided all sorts of twists and turns for the Atlanta United faithful. The club battled to a 3-3 draw against Montreal, the 2’s had a rough 90 minutes against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, five first team players were called up to national team duty, and two official signings are in the pipeline. Here are the five things you need to know about Atlanta United this past week.
Atlanta United Pull an Unlikely Draw at Home Against Montreal
What an insane match. By now it’s obvious the team has some fine-tuning to nail down a variety of issues seen on the pitch through the first four games, all of which culminated into one of the worst first halves Atlanta United has seen in its existence. Miscommunication, mental lapses, and a complete deviation from the initial game plan marked the final 20 minutes or so of the first half, which saw Montreal score three goals in quick succession.
The game started off well enough; the Five Stripes put on the pressure early which led to a quick turnover to Josef, who was able to put Atlanta up 1-0 early on. They continued to play their style and everything looked decent until the 27th minute, when Atlanta took a short corner out to Brooks Lennon. Lennon dribbled out towards the center of the pitch and made a light pass towards Ronald Hernandez, who hesitated a bit and turned the ball over. From that moment on, the Five Stripes looked lost. Montreal took the ball on a break in a 2v1 against Brad Guzan, and there was nothing he could do.
Another well worked goal and a soft penalty on Miles Robinson that led to a successful PK capped off the devastating first half. Subs were made at half time to bring some energy to Atlanta’s side. and Dom Dwyer’s entrance was not without fanfare. In the 67th minute he came in extremely hot trying to win a ball and ended up with a studs-up tackle into a Montreal defender’s knee. A red card was issued and suddenly the 3-1 deficit looked insurmountable.
However, not all was doom and gloom. To quote Gonzalo Pineda, the team showed heart after the red card, and exemplified something we haven’t really seen in a very long time: the resilience to fight back against all odds and get a result. If the team learned anything it’s that they have a squad capable of digging deep. How did they do this?
Even with 10 men they showed much more cohesion, and from yet another corner kick Thiago Almada showed why he is such a class player. After the initial volley, the ball ended up at Almada’s feet, who settled in, laid two defenders out, and then took a shot from almost 25 yards while falling. From the moment it left his foot, it absolutely had goal of the week written all over it. The ball brushed past the post and into the back of the net, and suddenly the Five Stripes were back in it with only a couple of minutes left plus stoppage time.
Another foul outside the box led to a free kick to Atlanta, and everyone in the stadium seemed to think Almada would be the one to take it again. However, it was unlikely hero Brooks Lennon who stepped lightly up to the ball, seemingly about to target both Miles Robinson and George Campbell who barely had any marks. But instead he took the shot himself, and the ball curled just left as Montreal’s keeper could only get his fingertips on it. Suddenly a 3-3 draw felt like a massive win.
One thing's for certain...— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) March 22, 2022
Through the highs and the lows, this team will remain United pic.twitter.com/mqVbQ4RbMH
In addition to this crazy match, Thiago Almada did indeed end up winning goal of the week for the banger that pulled the Five Stripes back into the game. Thiagolazo indeed.
Atlanta United 2 Falls 3-0 to Tampa Bay Rowdies
Atlanta United 2 have had a rough go during their first three matches. The first two end with them losing 1-0 each, but this last one on Wednesday was tough. Granted, they played against the Tamp Bay Rowdies, who by all means should have won the USL Cup last season, and it seemed the guys from Florida hadn’t missed a step. By the time the match started, the weather outside was gorgeous, but the pitch itself was still a bit wet and slick from earlier rain. This became a clear factor as both teams had players slipping and sliding at odd moments.
The Rowdies played a very suffocating and fast form of football which led to them going up 2-0 by halftime. The 2’s continued to try and play out of the back, and while they had some shining moments, they also had quite a few significant mistakes indicative of such a young squad. What must be said about this group, though, is that these are the games that can help a young player and young team take the next step in their own game. Getting whooped sucks, but if the 2’s can take some great lessons out of the match then they’ll be all the better for it.
On paper, Atlanta United 2 is off to a tough start. The outstanding experience they’re getting, however, is invaluable. This is the reason guys like Caleb Wiley and Noah Cobb (more on that in a bit) are receiving club contracts. There’s a ton of talent in this pipeline, so kudos to the Academy folks and Jack Collison for focusing so much on player development by showing them the real ropes, despite the scoreline at the end of each match. Sometimes it’s worth being reminded that the 2’s exist to give these guys real soccer experience against tough foes, and while silverware would be great, that isn’t necessarily the priority for the team.
As a side note, how cool is it to see the first team guys coming out to support the 2’s, much like how we’ve seen Pineda at the matches, as well.
National Team Call Ups
Atlanta United continues its outstanding run of international attendance during this break by having five players heading out to their respective teams. Miles Robinson is off to USMNT camp for three extremely important matches against Mexico, Panama, and Costa Rica. Josef Martinez and Ronald Hernandez will represent Venezuela in a series of games that are essentially just practice for the squad under their new coach, as they’re all but eliminated from the World Cup. Finally, Tyler Wolff and Caleb Wiley head down to Argentina to represent the U.S. U-20 Youth Men’s National team, where they’ll play friendlies against Argentina and River Plate to prepare for their own upcoming significant matches. Good luck to the five of them (but especially Miles Robinson because selfishly we need Miles Robinson to return to form and also save the national team from any more negativity and why is this so stressful).
Ronaldo Cisneros Signing
These next two bits of news were very welcome, though somewhat unexpected. Atlanta United has signed former Mexican youth international Ronaldo Cisneros to a loan with a purchase option from Chivas. One can only hope the Five Stripes have found another hidden gem, as Ronaldo has been playing for Club Deportivo Tapatio (Chivas’ Liga de Expansion side) for some time, where he’s had a decent run of form in the minutes he’s received. Most recently, he has scored one goal in three appearances for the Chivas first team, and another goal in five apps for the second team in 2021. Prior to that he scored seven goals in 29 appearances for Tapatio in 2020.
It appears Atlanta first took notice of the 25 year old in their preseason trip to Mexico where the front office was able to watch him play. Ronaldo brings the ability to play as a true striker or a winger, and a quick dive into his recent goals shows he seems to be rather balanced between scoring with either foot. Here’s hoping he proves to be another valuable option up front when MAMA can’t all be on the pitch.
Noah Cobb Signing
This is why it’s so important to have this Atlanta United 2 team providing valuable minutes to these young guys. Noah Cobb is 16 years old, and has officially signed a Homegrown contract for 2023. He’s already showing beyond his years as a defender, and this contract keeps him as part of the Atlanta United pipeline. If he continues at the current breakneck pace then it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in the Benz in a couple of years. For now, though, he’ll continue to develop as a stalwart wall at the back, in much the same way Miles Robinson and George Campbell have before. Congrats, Noah!