Atlanta United just can’t catch a break. Unfortunately that seems to be the team’s mantra right now between the injuries and frustrating losses. That theme continued this week as the Five Stripes traveled down to Miami, played some of their best football of the season, and made it back to Atlanta with nothing to show for the trouble except for, you guessed it, more injuries.
Let’s take a quick dive into the past week in the world of Atlanta United to get you caught up before the match tomorrow against Montreal.
There was quite a bit to be hopeful about as Atlanta headed south to face Inter Miami in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. They had just come off a 6-0 thwomping of Chattanooga F.C. in the U.S. Open Cup, so the goal-scoring drought they were experiencing was supposed to be over, right? All signs pointed to yes, and there was plenty of positivity to build on.
The Five Stripes started off the match well enough, striking first off a corner as Ronaldo Cisneros netted his first goal in an Atlanta United kit.
Cisneros continued to play a solid match, almost bagging a second later on with this nifty flick.
However, all of that was unfortunately mired in some of the most questionable refereeing decisions by Jair Marrufo in recent history. On two separate occasions, an Atlanta United player was clearly fouled in the box and neither were awarded a penalty, including this one after a VAR review.
Any other league in the world go out of their way to showcase how bad their referees are, for some cheap sponsorship clicks, with hosts who contradict themselves on a weekly basis? No? Just MLS? Ok cool. #ATLUTD #MLS pic.twitter.com/EE0BV8fhju— Anibal Roldan (@latinheat) April 25, 2022
What makes it even more comical at this point is PRO’s inability to come out and even admit they were blatantly wrong, when an identical (albeit much less blatant) foul was called a penalty just a couple of weeks prior for Justin Meram. If you’re curious about that one, just take a look at the comments in this tweet.
MIA vs. ATL— MLS Video Review (@MLSVAR) April 24, 2022
The penalty kick not awarded to ATL was reviewed for a foul committed by MIA #32 (Noah Allen).
After further review, the decision to not award a penalty kick stands.
Anyway, horrendous reffing decisions aside, Atlanta United created a ton of chances and looked as if they were playing one of their most well-rounded attacking matches of the season. The defensive mistakes that turned to goals by Miami will always be a central topic, but it was clear Atlanta was once again knocking on the door and couldn’t finish. When one takes into account the potential from two missed penalty calls, and a couple of outstanding chances by Almada and Cisneros, this game could have easily been 4-2 when it was all said and done. However, such is soccer, and Lady Luck/Soccer gods/voodoo just seem to have it out for the Five Stripes right now.
As the game progressed, so did the frustration. George Campbell was bulldozed by Gonzalo Higuain and sent into the benches, where it was clear he had injured “something.” Campbell was urged on by Rob Valentino to finish out the remainder of the match because of a lack of subs, and even the handicapped Campbell was able to get one back on Higuain in another defensive moment that saw the young Atlanta defender stall Higuain’s attack.
By the end of the day, however, none of the chances were enough to find the back of the net, and Atlanta left Miami once again feeling robbed and frustrated.
Speaking on injuries, it was revealed later on in the week that Campbell had suffered an abductor injury and would be out on a week-to-week basis. Shortly thereafter, Atlanta United announced it had placed Brad Guzan, Dylan Castanheira, and Osvaldo Alonso on the season-ending injury list, which freed up spots for replacements. One of those replacements was already well-known, but officially announced on Wednesday:
The former Atlanta United 2 goalkeeper Rocco Rios Novo was officially signed on a loan from Lanus. This leaves a potential goalkeeper depth chart of Bobby Shuttleworth, Rocco Rios Novo, Justin Garces, and Vicente Reyes, with Gonzalo Pineda making it blatant that no one had any spot on lock; the competition at the position matters.
Unfortunately the injury news for the week didn’t stop there. Both Santiago Sosa and Caleb Wiley were placed on the injury list for the weekend as questionable, and Dom Dwyer (who didn’t travel to Miami) and Matheus Rossetto were also still listed as questionable.
Santiago Sosa (lower body) and Caleb Wiley (lower body) now appear on Atlanta United's official injury report for Saturday as questionable.— Mike Conti (@MikeConti929) April 28, 2022
Dom Dwyer (leg) and Matheus Rossetto (hamstring) are also questionable.
Of course there are questions being asked of the training staff. And many folks agree there is just terrible luck being spread around the club currently. It happens. I don’t know enough about the topic to make any sort of opinion, but I do know that some idioms are just true, like “When it rains, it pours.” Until the front office comes out and says anything on the topic of injuries and why they’re happening in bunches, the fans, supporters, and media just have to trust and understand that sometimes “it just be what it be.”
Now, back to the 2’s, both Noah Cobb and David Mejia received national team call-ups, giving Atlanta better representation on the international stage. Along with Tyler Wolff and others, this list continues to grow.
The 2’s also went up to Pittsburgh last Saturday to play a match against the Riverhounds. The match was another humbling experience for the young team as they lost 4-0, though it’s worth mentioning that the Riverhounds are a very good team. Atlanta United 2 continues to integrate and force the players to play a very disciplined style that may not always tactically matchup against other opponents, but they’re very much looking at the bigger picture in terms of teaching these guys the next level of the game. If players like Noah Cobb, Efrain Morales, Robbie Mertz, and others learn this style now and feel comfortable playing their game under pressure, it does nothing but make them all the more ready for the next step up to MLS or another higher league. Though it has to be frustrating to be going through such a spell of losses, the experience they’re gaining is invaluable.
Finally, our guys Paulo Neto and Vini Leiva are back at it again fighting on the global stage over in London for more trophies. The tournament started today (at the time of this writing) and they’ve already pulled off quite the first round against Israeli side Nom eSports, winning 5-4 in the two-legged opener.
The winners and runner-up of this tournament will secure a spot in the FIFA eClub World Cup, and the winners take a home a cool $100k. Plenty to fight for, and Neto and Leiva are the two guys to make a run.
The Five Stripes will be back at it again tomorrow against Montreal north of the border, in what is sure to be a tough one if they continue their knack of putting everything on the table but not finding the back of the net. We’ll also be live just after the match on Twitter Spaces, as usual, so be sure to come give us a listen and jump into the conversation. We love hearing from y’all.