With the international break over and Atlanta United’s season back in full swing, it’s time to recap all the news from the past couple of weeks. The emotions this club have endured during the early portion of the season are admittedly all across the board, but as of now the Five Stripes are sitting at third place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 3-1-1. This is great, and while it’s still very early in the season, it’s best to take the wins as they come and deal with everything else as the season pushes forward. What do I mean by that?
Before I dive into that tidbit, know that this Five Stripes Recap is going to be laid out a bit differently. Frankly, throwing out the list of “stuff” that’s happened in the past two weeks in the world of Atlanta United seems kind of a cheap way to summarize the emotional mountains and valleys that supporters have traveled. Therefore, this one isn’t going to be a list, we’re just going to chat for a bit.
So, take the wins as they come? Atlanta United traveled to our nations capital last weekend and Marcelino “Mando” Moreno pulled off a straight heist on D.C. United. I said it that night and I’ll say it again, that man has become the scourge of D.C. in the past few meetups between these two teams. He’s been the game-winner on two occasions and also cemented his place in a bit of team legend last year by taking on half of the team from the middle of the pitch to the end line, where he slipped a ball back over to George Bello for the tap-in. Needless to say, Hernán Losada probably despises seeing Moreno on the pitch.
What he did this time was no different; after an already solid 90 minute shift he was able to somehow slide the weirdest header off a corner into the back of the net, despite a complete lack of velocity or....sense in general. This was the breakthrough in an otherwise sloppy, knockdown, drag-out street fight of a match and it came in stoppage time, making this the third time in a row that the Five Stripes have squeaked out a result or win via goals at the end of regulation time.
Right on target, right on time pic.twitter.com/eaBpKeYIxk— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) April 4, 2022
OMFG MANDO MORENO EVERYONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HE LIVES IN THEIR NIGHTMARES AND DREAMS AND HEAVAN AND HELL!!!!— Dirty South Soccer (@DirtySouthSoc) April 3, 2022
In addition to the game-winner against D.C., Mando also earned a spot on the Team of the Week and now sits at 2 assists and 1 goal for the season already. This is especially impressive considering the fewer minutes he was receiving in the first couple of matches.
Big time plays deserve big time recognition pic.twitter.com/sTE3alZQ3m— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) April 4, 2022
So, that was definitely a win. Like I said, take them when they come. But the match against D.C. wasn’t without its sacrifices. Matheus Rossetto was subbed off at halftime with a hamstring injury and Osvaldo Alonso buckled his knee in a challenge, going down for a significant while as the trainers checked on him. It turns out Ozzie tore his ACL in the aforementioned challenge and is obviously out for...who knows? Unfortunately, Alonso is 36 and while this by no means indicates he’s done playing the beautiful game, it definitely presents him with some choices in the near future. Ozzie seems to be the kind of player and man who will walk back on the pitch next year if he chooses to, and if he doesn’t, it’s because he simply didn’t want to. Maybe he recovers completely and comes back for another year; maybe he turns Roy Kent and returns as a coach of some sort, who knows?
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
It was also announced that Josef Martinez would be heading up to Pennsylvania to have his knee examined. This is obviously the same knee in which he tore his ACL in 2020 and which has notoriously given him trouble. As of this writing there hasn’t been any further news on what they were checking, but he is listed as unavailable for this weekend’s match against Charlotte. Clearly the injuries are piling up, and it’s just garbage luck (or voodoo, I’m just saying everyone needs to check their locker).
BUT WAIT, THERE’S FREAKING MORE! A couple of days after the D.C. match carnage, Atlanta’s third goalkeeper Dylan Castanheira ruptured his Achilles tendon. There isn't much else to be said other than give prayers all these guys heal up quickly and safely and get back to doing what they enjoy.
BUT WAI...ok for real that’s it, but now maybe it’s a bit clearer why I say supporters are going to have to take the wins, whatever they may be, when they come. Ultimately, though, there is a ton to be positive about, especially the fact that the entire squad has truly stepped up through these injuries and shown just how important the depth is throughout the roster. Or how about the fact that Atlanta has scored 9 goals thus far this season, and of those 9, 8 of them were scored by different players? That’s huge, as it becomes very clear that the goalscoring threat is everywhere on the pitch for the Five Stripes.
With that being said, there is a ton of other news going on in this club currently, in addition to the aforementioned UFC match in D.C. and the subsequent injury issues. Atlanta United 2 has turned their early struggles around into two very good showings against Charleston Battery (who have not looked good recently, they just got knocked out of the U.S. Open Cup by Tormenta) and Hartford Athletic. Jackson Conway scored a hat trick against the Battery, with Darwin Matheus getting back on the board with a late cherry-on-top to end the match 4-1. Newcomer Nick Firmino then netted a brace against Hartford, which saw the 2’s win 2-1.
For his heroics, Jackson Conway earned a spot in the USL Team of the Week and is currently nominated for Player of the Month. You can vote for him here, so you know what to do 17’s.
Meanwhile, Atlanta United’s eMLS players Paulo Neto and Vine Leiva just keep winning everything. As mentioned in the last recap, Neto won the trophy in mid-March, and the duo just went and won the EA Master’s Cup. I love video games and I’m having trouble keeping track of just how many tournaments these guys are playing in, but regardless, they are absolutely dominant right now. Keep adding that silverware!
Moving forward, in somewhat of a surprise announcement, Atlanta United released news on the first edition of the American Family Insurance Cup (or AmFam Cup). This is going to be an annual one-off match played against foreign clubs at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, with the inaugural match kicking off June 14th against C.F. Pachuca. Besides the obvious ability to win silverware, despite its stature, the event is really meant to provide both the players and community the ability to experience play against teams they may normally never see. There are a ton of Liga MX fans in Atlanta (as we all saw at Campeones Cup a few years ago), so from a community aspect this is really neat. The obvious downside is risking players in a match that doesn’t carry weight, though it would be great experience for some of the younger guys coming up through the 2’s and into the first team.
To tidy things up a bit, we’ll end the recap by tying up some loose ends. First off, Thiago Almada did indeed win Goal of the Week for his beautiful solo shot against Montreal that helped Atlanta crawl back into the game and get a result. Second, Miles Robinson played a solid three matches for the USMNT during the World Cup Qualifier window, which officially saw the United States qualify and get drawn into a group with England and Iran. For Atlanta, it was great to see Miles seemingly “get back to himself” after a bit of a shaky start to club play this season. Perhaps it was nerves, perhaps he just needed a reset, but he looked like the stalwart wall we’ve come to know and love. In his few minutes against D.C., he played some beautiful long balls and exhibited some world-class defending, almost as if hadn’t missed a beat.
Finally, Ronaldo Cisneros has found his way to the Deep South to join the squad after getting all of his legal paperwork squared away. The timing of this couldn’t be any better after the injury news and the checkup on Josef’s knee. Cisneros might hit the ground running (literally) because his fitness levels shouldn’t be a big concern considering Mexico’s season is in full swing. He’ll just need some time to integrate with the team, but he may have an early chance to impress Pineda and the supporters as it’ll likely be him and Dom Dwyer serving as the Josef replacement for the moment.
And we’ve made it to the end of....BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
I can’t really write much about this last bit of news because the video says it all, but it reinforces one of the things that makes this club such a joy. Everyone from the top to the bottom has fun, just as we saw last year with the Waka/Darren Eales music video. This is no different, and all I can point out is this: keep an eye on Mando and Almada’s reactions, one wants so badly to disappear and the other one is trying to figure out what weird country he ended up in.
A new era begins...— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) April 1, 2022
Maybe we see Trainy McTrainface at the next home match? He already has some merchandise available through Atlanta United, so maybe he’ll stick around for a while. Would love to get a McTrainface/Blooper collab going.