Atlanta United returned home and picked up a massive 2-1 win over Concacaf Champions League champions Seattle Sounders on Saturday afternoon. A back and forth affair came down to one moment of drama and class as Andrew Gutman took the game on his left foot and blasted the Five Stripes into euphoria deep into second half stoppage time. While we’ve been here before with the team pulling off a dramatic win, could this one be the turning point in their season? Here are a few thoughts on a very good result in the ATL.
- We must give Gonzalo Pineda credit for his tactical changes coming into this match. His decision to deploy Luiz Araujo as a natural left-sided winger — as opposed to his normal inverted role on the right side — made a huge impact on the attack. Without the inclination of always cutting inside to look for a shot, Araujo transformed into more of a playmaker than a finisher while playing down the left side. His ability to get into the box and into dangerous spots is very useful as someone playing service into the box. That was evident on the match’s opening goal as the Brazilian was played in behind and his cutback into the danger area found a wide open Ronaldo Cisneros for the opener. For all the team’s faults, Pineda’s willingness to try different things to find something that works is one positive of this season. In the past, the stubbornness of previous managers has been a big frustration. The fact that Pineda is willing to implement different shapes and ideas to find something that will work is a good sign. Now it’s just a matter of taking what works and finding some consistency with it.
- It wasn’t the most attractive game of all-time. The first half showed promising signs thanks to Pineda’s tweaks. However, the second half was largely controlled by Seattle and Atlanta never really looked likely to find a winner until Gutman’s wonderstrike from out of nowhere. Despite conceding an equalizer in the second half, it must be noted that the centerback pairing of Juanjo Purata and Alan Franco looked very promising in their first time playing together. Purata, especially, continues to impress and look like a shrewd addition to the squad.
- Unfortunately we must address a negative that really can’t go ignored much longer. Josef Martinez just looks lost at this point. Not mobile enough to worry a back line, not energetic enough to open space for his teammates, and not clinical enough when the rare half-chance falls his way. There is a real worry now that Josef is more a liability than a help at this point. As difficult as it is to admit, it’s just hard to say the team is better with him at the spear of the attack than it is when someone else is.
- Winning is great and winning in incredibly dramatic fashion could be a huge boost to everyone’s confidence as the team chases a playoff spot. However, we’ve seen this movie before. Several times this season, actually. Getting the huge win to start the momentum rolling is the first step. The next and most important step is to keep going and get that second win, something the team has been unable to do for quite some time. If they have any hope of salvaging this season, they must find a way to string some results together and get the momentum to dig themselves out of the hole they’ve dug.