Atlanta United walked into Ohio and played FC Cincinnati to a frantic and exciting 2-2 draw. While it’s not the three points the Five Stripes desperately needed, it may be something more important; a sign of consistency. Here are a few thoughts on a very good performance that netted a decent but deserved result.
- Sometimes a draw feels like a loss, sometimes a win. It’s not too often when a match feels as even as this one did and produces the fair result. Both sides had spells of domination and beautiful attacking soccer. Both teams could’ve easily scored a couple of more goals than they did. However, at the end of the day, a 2-2 draw is a just one for each team. For Atlanta, the opening 30 minutes may have been the best spell of soccer the team has displayed all season. They produced a well-worked goal that ended with a piece of Thiago Almada magic and created several more through some lovely attacking play. The ideas were fresh and the spirits were as high as we’ve seen in quite some time. The levels dropped a bit as the hosts got back into the match and took ahold of it. But credit to Pineda’s side for showing some resiliency and fighting back to level it at 2-2 and almost coming away with the win. The analytics tell the tale quite honestly as Opta had the Expected Goals total at a dead even 1.37 for both sides. Considering this team hasn’t won an away match since April, you have to accept this result with open arms.
- Thiago Almada’s emergence into one of the best attackers in MLS is progressing quite well. The young Argentine came into the league with a massive amounts of hype. While his tangible production numbers haven’t been all that impressive, he’s certainly passed the eye test with his scintillating ability on the ball. Moments like his opening goal against Cincy is why he’s such a highly-touted talent. He’s consistently putting his stamp on the Atlanta attack and becoming the player most people thought he would be. The goal for the club now should be to do whatever they can to build around his skill set and give him the best tools to work with in the attack.
- Once again Andrew Gutman played the attacking hero, which is quite astonishing considering he started the match as the left centerback in a three-back formation. It’s clear that he oozes quality at the MLS level and him missing large chunk of playing time was a big detriment to the team. It’s also very nice to see that his return has not hampered Caleb Wiley’s chances at getting important minutes.
- If Gutman was the attacking hero, we must highlight the heroics on the other end of the field by Rocco Rio Novo. A lightning rod for debate, no matter your feelings on the diminutive goalkeeper, it’s clear that there is something about him. He may be unorthodox, undersized and downright scary to watch at times, but he has a natural talent that has won over Pineda. Yes he has some highly questionable moments in possession or playing out of the back, but he also does things that you don’t see other keepers pull off. Whether it’s dribbling out 50 yards from goal or making a game-saving diving stop, Rios Novo is the guy this team will be relying on to make the playoffs.