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Why Atlanta United discovering its identity is more important than sneaking into the playoffs

Optimism? In 2022?

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Orlando City SC Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United pulled off the unthinkable on Wednesday. With their 1-0 away win over rivals Orlando City, they successfully won back-to-back matches for the first time in 2022. But all hyperbole aside, there is tangible reason for optimism surrounding the Five Stripes for the first time in what feels like an eternity. I was originally going to wait until after the Union match to talk about the happenings, but since I’m wide awake at 6:00 a.m., let’s talk about why this newfound good form feels like the start of something really good for the future of the club.

  • Blah, blah, blah playoff hopes blah, blah. There’s so much more to unpack for these last two performances than silly talk of fighting for the last playoff spot. Yes, their hopes have increased — winning tends to do that — but more importantly we’re beginning to see an identity form under Gonzalo Pineda. I really can’t explain what happened, but something has clicked for Gonzo and his squad in his latest shift in tactics. Suddenly, since switching back to the 4-2-3-1, the team has a coherent shape and understanding of what they’re trying to accomplish. Frankly, I can’t really pinpoint one variable that changed to cause this sudden burst of attacking competency. Maybe it’s the return and good form of a reliable defensive midfielder in Santiago Sosa, or Thiago Almada playing like someone pushing for a move to a big-time European club, or maybe a simple chicken and rice shower shocked some life into everyone. But whatever the cause, we’re finally seeing something we’ve been begging for Pineda took over as manager; an identity.
  • Granted, I’m still a firm believer that this roster has several holes to fill this offseason. However, we’re starting to see a mold forming that if filled with the right ingredients could yield something special. A few shrewd offseason moves and a return to full health coupled with this new identity continuing to take hold and all of a sudden the future doesn’t look so bleak. Now whether or not the club is equipped to make those acquisitions remains up for debate.
  • Basically, what I’m trying to portray is this. Playoffs be damned. Whether they sneak in or don’t, let’s pay attention to the bigger picture and if this stylistic approach can be replicated with success. Once the manager’s ideas and approach are engrained, then finding the right pieces to fit it should produce better results and most importantly, more fun for us watching every match.