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Five thoughts on Atlanta United’s thrilling comeback win in its 2023 MLS opener

Limbs all over the shop

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Atlanta United FC Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United turned from utter frustration and disappointment to the thrill of ecstasy on a dime thanks to two stunning goals from Thiago Almada in its 2023 MLS opener to beat the San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Saturday night.

Here are some thoughts.

  • First things first, before we talk about what transpired on the field, it’s worth singling out the 67,000ish fans in attendance that created an electric atmosphere at the Benz. The buzz leading up to kickoff was intense and San Jose’s manager Luchi Gonzalez even commented unprompted after the game that it affected the match. Obviously there are ebbs and flows of noise throughout any game, but the way the cherry popped on each of Almada’s two stunners were melt-your-face-off moments. I feel lucky to have been witness to it.

And along these lines, boy it is nice to play on Saturday nights. It feels like almost every home game last year was either on a Sunday, afternoon, or worse, both. Saturday nights are awesome.

  • Okay, but enough about you all (I love you), but Thiago Almada put the league on notice. The Champions League, I mean. These kinds of performances will have the biggest clubs in the world keeping a very close eye on the 21-year old as he has already established himself as one of MLS’s most dangerous players. But he’s obviously an early frontrunner for MVP, and if he doesn’t suffer any significant injury trouble this season, he will power this attack.
  • Gonzalo Pineda seems certain that Luiz Araujo will not suffer a drop in form, let alone a disappointing season like he suffered through in 2022. But this game certainly didn’t inspire much confidence. Araujo missed a key penalty that would have leveled the game in the first half, and throughout the match continued a worrying trend from last season in settling for low percentage shots from the edge of the box. Hopefully it was indeed a blip, and to be fair he did help push the play late in the game, even if the final balls into the box were few and far between.
  • I’ve maintained skepticism for weeks about the form of Miles Robinson and Brad Guzan in their abilities to come back from such significant injuries so quickly. You can argue that their ruptured Achilles’ are worse injuries than the one suffered earlier in last season by Ozzie Alonso, who still appears to be weeks away from a return to the field. But if tonight was any indication of how they can physically perform, it will be a huge boost to Atlanta United’s fortunes this season. It wasn’t perfect, but both players looked incredibly good all things considered.
  • This was a massive three points for the team. Obviously you never want to lose at home to start a season, but this is a team still without many players who will undoubtedly be massive contributors this season. We saw glimpses of a couple in Derrick Etienne Jr. and Luis Abram (who played great, btw). But considering the team was also without Santiago Sosa and Giorgos Giakoumakis, getting the three points without those players — no matter how it comes — is a massive boost.

Gives us your thoughts on the game and what is to come below.