Atlanta United began their three-match road trip with a 2-1 loss to Toronto FC on Saturday night. It was an evening that started with optimism as Gonzalo Pineda trotted out the same XI that beat Inter Miami last weekend and one that finished the same as many have all season, with frustration and dejection. Here are a few thoughts on another disappointing loss on the season.
Cue the Football Manager Sayings
“We’re being overrun in the midfield”
It was a snap back to reality moment for Atlanta United’s midfield in this one. After looking so good against a weakened and short-handed Inter Miami side, the pairing of Franco Ibarra and Emerson Hyndman were bossed around by TFC. Every attack by the home side seemingly sliced through the Atlanta formation like butter and usually resulted in something dangerous in and around the box for their playmakers. I can’t sit here and pretend to be smart enough to tell you if it was a flaw in the tactics or Toronto simply having more talent, but it was clear to see that there was a massive mismatch.
Unfortunately, there still feels like a hole in Atlanta’s midfield in matches like this where they don’t dominate possession. There’s no calming influence or someone to set the tone defensively. This was a night where the absence of someone like Ozzie Alonso was felt deeply. Even worse is, I’m not sure there’s anyone on the current roster that can fill that void.
The most disappointing thing about this result is that it’s just the first match of an even more difficult stretch away from home. It’s no secret that the club has difficulties on the road. With matches against New York Red Bulls and NYCFC on the horizon, the outlook is not the brightest for the ol’ Five Stripes. If they are to avoid a pointless road trip, they’ll undoubtedly need to improve upon this performance in all facets.
Luiz is the Truth
Setting aside the inevitable negativity, we must take a moment to praise Luiz Araujo for another outstanding goal and performance. It’s clear that he’s a top level talent in this league and if not for injuries and an under-performing team around him, he’d be in the discussion for the MVP race. Without throwing out unfair comparisons, Atlanta United haven’t had a player with the ability to single-handedly take over matches and impact them like this since the departure of Miguel Almiron. If only they could figure out everything else around him it would go a long ways toward getting the team back to contending.