Atlanta United bounced back from their worst home defeat in franchise history with a solid 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake on Wednesday night. It was exactly the type of performance and result everyone around the Five Stripes community needed after a dramatic and painful implosion at the weekend. The energy and passion was felt throughout the night and it resulted in a desperately-needed three points. Here are a few takeaways from a good night in the ATL.
- We must give credit where it’s due. After the 3-0 embarrassment on Saturday, Gonzalo Pineda promised that his team would come out in their next game and show some heart. That’s exactly what they did from the opening whistle and it paid off big time. It wasn’t the prettiest of games, but it was gritty and tough in all the best ways with players chasing down loose balls, pressing high up the field and working for each other. While it’s true that the Atlanta United ethos is to attack, attack, attack, you must walk before you can run and doing the fundamentals is the predecessor to getting back to the fun of previous years.
- Without throwing too much cold water on a good night, this type of game sort of feels like when you’re a kid and your parents give you a stern talking to for not doing your chores or failing to study for an important test. Of course when the magnifying glass is on your every move you’re going to make sure to do the right things. Now comes the true test of replicating that effort and mentality over several days and weeks as a team. If they can continue to keep the energy levels high and fight together as a team, the good results should follow.
- The shift in tactics and personnel from Pineda was quite interesting as he chose to return to the three-at-the-back setup and have Ronaldo Cisneros as a lone striker. The Mexican’s skillset was fully showcased in this match as his verticality caused RSL headaches all night. This was the catalyst for the match’s opening goal as Thiago Almada dropped deeper than usual to pick up possession and thread an absolutely gorgeous throughball into the striker to put him in on goal. Of course Cisneros deserves credit for doing some extra work to finish off the chance, he got the opportunity because of runners in behind the opposing defense. This is something that Pineda desperately wants more of and why Cisneros got his big start and took advantage.
- Juanjo Purata’s full debut went pretty well and was encouraging to see. Moreso, the entire backline just looked more confident and sorted in the three-back system. In particular, Alan Franco’s performance as the anchoring center centerback in comparison to him playing in a four-back is noticeably improved. This is quite the conundrum for Pineda who prefers playing a more traditional four-back system.
- This now opens up a ton of questions as far as what the team’s most effective starting lineup looks like and which 11 players best fit it. Is Josef Martinez still the striker to fit the style Pineda wants to play? Was the three centerback look another circumstantial decision or is it here to stay? There are a lot of questions left to be answered. As if playing Orlando City at home wasn’t already important enough, there will be even more intrigued piled on Sunday afternoon as we attempt to see these big questions answered.