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Three thoughts on Atlanta United’s impressive performance ending in a 1-1 draw against NYCFC

The result is good all things considered, but the performance was even better.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at New York City FC Mark Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Was that Atlanta United’s best ever performance at Yankee Stadium?

Not all thoughts are decisive. I can’t help but wonder after watching Saturday night’s 1-1 draw with NYCFC if that was not the best footballing performance Atlanta United has ever displayed at the condensed confines of Yankee Stadium.

The team has had better results. It won there in 2019 2-0, for example. But in that game, the team pounced for two direct goals and was under incredibly heavy pressure for much of the second half. And the team has also scored more in prior trips to Yankee Stadium — having scored at leas twice on three occasions all-time, including a 2-2 draw late last season.

But Saturday, Atlanta came out and was on the front foot from the opening whistle. It wasn’t tip-top perfect display — the finishing and connecting in the box left a lot to be desired. But it was the Five Stripes who looked as if they were playing on their home field, It says a lot about a team at this stage of the season to go to the most disadvantageous venue in the league and perform in the way they did.

Through seven games, Atlanta United is just about on it’s best possible trajectory.

When you go into a season, you think about all the good and all the bad that can happen, how those two courses of events might combine and transpire, and thus produces a set of outcomes based on the calculation that left most Atlanta fans thinking this team could finish anywhere from roughly second in the table to second-to-last come season’s end. Through seven games, Atlanta United is clearly touching the upper bounds of those projections. Their place in the table demonstrates as much, but subjectively, the quality of play on the field wholly supports it.

Atlanta is winning games and getting results (outside of one true outlier in which they were missing half of their starting lineup), but they’re doing it in a way that suggests it’s sustainable. While some of the goals are “fluky” insofar as they require crazy free-kick-taking skill, the overall level at which this team is not only creating, but allowing to be created against them, leaves us all feeling very positively about this squad’s potential this season. And there’s still room to improve as well. The team likely will have the opportunity to improve the squad in the summer. But even before that, this game gave us perfect representations of where the play can be improved as players like Giorgios Giakoumakis and Derrick Etienne establish a better and better connection with teammates as the reps pile up.

Injuries can always derail this timeline on which Atlanta United is currently living. But right now, they have an opportunity to win some silverware — a first for this team in the post-pandemic era.

Atlanta United did not look like a team playing a man down for half an hour

Again, my thoughts are almost all positive coming out of this one. Even the negatives, like the lack of clinical play in the box, can be seen through a positive prism given the fact that there’s so much potential yet to be seen out of the attacking group, and some of the play can be chalked up to the newness of the players.

When Franco Ibarra’s red card was given Saturday — immaterial of the debate about the decision — Atlanta United didn’t really seem to lose much of their momentum in the game. They scored through Giakoumakis shortly thereafter. And while they frustratingly conceded within moments (and one has to admit that the goal given up was a golaso) the team never lost their tactical control of the game, nor their composure individually. Credit to Gonzalo Pineda for making a wise substitution to bring in not one, but a new pair of central midfielders in Santiago Sosa and Matheus Rossetto at that point.

But seriously, how many times have we seen this team fall apart in moments like that red card? It’s very easy to be incensed by the decision and lose focus on the field at a moment where going down to ten men means there needs to be MORE tactical concentration and determination. Credit to the players for keeping their heads in the game, and ultimately keeping grasp of a valued point.