Atlanta United salvaged a lone point out of a possible nine in the finale of their three-match road swing with a 2-2 draw against New York City FC on Sunday. The topsy-turvy and somewhat unexpected result against the defending MLS Cup champions is a welcome silver lining on what looked to be a lost cause of a trip away from home. Here are some thoughts on the draw, the team and the bigger picture of the season.
- It’s easy to look at this stretch of matches in a negative light. There’s no positive way to spin one point in three matches without looking dumb. However, there were some encouraging signs masked by horrible results. The biggest is clearly the progress that Josef Martinez is making. Not only is he consistently finding a way to put the ball in the net, but nearly back to being a 90-minute player. When he’s on the field, it’s clear as day that the team plays much more confident in attack and are vastly more threatening than without him. While we’re still a long ways away from Prime Josef, he’s clearly on his way to becoming a very good and productive MLS striker once again. For that, we can be very thankful and optimistic.
- The other impact attacking players in the side are starting to prove their worth as well. Luiz Araujo in particular is becoming a must-see attraction every match he plays in. The chemistry between him and Josef continues to improve day after day. Then there’s Thiago Almada, who returned from his extended suspension and played an absolute dime of a ball to set up Josef’s goal in this one. He continues to show his individual talent. Once these weapons start playing with each other on a more consistent basis it should provide some entertaining highlights and more importantly, much-needed production.
- Now for the not-so-good news. The defense continues to look lost playing without Miles Robinson. No matter the formation or personnel, there are just mistakes and holes galore. While there is certainly reason for hope and optimism in the attacking end, the opposite side of the field leaves us with nothing but uncertainty and worry.
- We can only hope the two confirmed additions to the squad will shore up the biggest weaknesses back there. Come this weekend, both Juanjo Purata and Raul Gudino will be available for selection. It’s very harsh to pile pressure on these two signings, it’s not a stretch to say that Purata’s impact on the team in particular could go a long ways in determining if Atlanta United make the playoffs or not. If the back line can find some improvement thanks to the Mexican’s introduction, it would instill a ton of confidence in the team all over the field.
- If you had told me in February that I’d be sitting here now asking for Dom Dwyer to get more minutes for Atlanta United, I would’ve told you you were crazy. Yet, here we are. The “super sub” moniker is not one I particularly subscribe to. In my opinion, good players are good players and will produce when put on the field. I would like to see Dom get some more chances to impact games alongside the team’s key attacking pieces. Specifically, I’d like to see him playing alongside Josef from time to time to give the team a different dynamic in the final third. He’s earned some trust and opportunity thanks to his confident play this season.
- Entering the week, the Five Stripes are five points off the last playoff spot in the East. The outlook for this season admittedly doesn’t look great, but not all hope is lost. The pieces in attack are there, it’s just a matter of them coming together and making something special. On the defensive end, it’s pretty bleak but there is the ray of hope of reinforcements on the horizon. The season is only halfway over and crazier things have happened than this talented team figuring it out and climbing up into a playoff spot. It’s just a matter of confidence and form coming together at this point. Hopefully the performances will begin translating into results and we’ll see that come to fruition.