Ultimately, it was a successful night
The way Saturday’s game in Orlando went down, there are many areas one can critique, be it tactical or player-to-player. But one thing that we must give the team credit for is a determination and willingness to suffer and persevere. In a number of past performances both this season and prior, we’ve seen the team capitulate in on-field circumstances they faced Saturday where they are clearly the second best team on the field. Perhaps a little bit of luck helped in preventing that situation from unfolding Saturday, but the team as a whole deserves credit for allowing themselves an opportunity to hang around and get the equalizer from Tyler Wolff (and they nearly even grabbed a winner too). The performance must improve going forward, but the spirit of the team was good to see.
Brad Guzan makes a difference
I’l be the first to say that Brad Guzan is not nearly the shot-stopper he once was, and he was never known for being an acrobat between the sticks as it was. But it’s no surprise to me that I had the preceding thought in a game where Guzan made his (again) remarkably quick turnaround from injury. No one on the roster is more diligent or forceful in communicating and organizing teammates tactically than Atlanta’s captain. “Spirit,” as I referred to it above, is only important if you have players in positions where they are able to affect the game, and Guzan helps tremendously in that respect. It just goes to show how weird the goalkeeping position is. I think we’ve seen direct evidence that there are goalkeepers on Atlanta’s current roster that are better at making saves, better with the ball at their feet, etc. But Guzan being good enough at those things while also being by far the team leader and an experienced head makes him the easy choice as the top man for the job for the rest of the season (if that was even in question).
Is Franco Ibarra among Atlanta’s most important players?
The young combative holding midfielder missed Saturday’s action to serve a suspension due to yellow card accumulation. In his place was the dreaded Sosa-Rossetto combination that predictably got totally overrun. Ibarra’s absence goes to show just how important he is to the team. Without him, Atlanta finds it much more difficult to cover all the spaces in midfield defensively, while simultaneously not being able to apply any pressure or make critical defensive actions higher up the field to start counter attacks. Ultimately, the failings of this midfield combination we saw Saturday rest with Sosa. We’ve seen Ibarra and Rossetto play well in tandem this season, and Sosa just doesn’t have the physical attributes needed to pair well with any of Atlanta’s other CMs. It would make sense to me if the team moved on from him during the summer window for a similar reason that they did with Luiz Araujo — it’s a time when deals are easier to make, especially for players that are not absolutely critical to the team’s success. And if I were Sosa, I think I’d be up for a move to a team that is a better fit as well.
Tyler Wolff feeling frisky
Atlanta United homegrown Tyler Wolff scored his second league goal of the season in a span of 11 days Saturday despite those two substitute appearance being only his second and third times on the pitch in MLS this season. We should start to see more of him, and not just based off the recent goal production. It’s clear that Gonzalo Pineda sees a player here:
“I was telling you all the other day that Tyler is a fantastic player. He’s a very complete player. At his age, he’s technical, he has some edge on him. He has some good physicality, so he can repeat actions at high intensity. But at times, what we were thinking is that he was missing the final product. That final pass, the final shot. In the last couple of weeks he’s now scored goals with the second team, down in Miami on a great first touch, then he scored in the last game with us a good goal where he was the only one following up on the ball. Now he gets his reward with this goal tonight which was a fantastic finish. I think he can bring intensity, relentless movement. He has some edge to come back and defend, put some tackles, then with his quality, he can impact the final third. He is someone that I believe is goal dangerous. He also has versatility to play in multiple positions which is very valuable.”
No, this doesn’t mean he’s going to be thrust into a major role suddenly. But it should be an opportunity for him to continue to see the field as a sub on a more regular basis, especially with the impending departure of Araujo. Wolff has an opportunity to earn Pineda’s trust so that he’s one of the first players coming off the bench, particularly when the team is in search of goals. He’s an energetic player that is a willing presser and runner. If he can limit bad giveaways and capitalize on opportunities he creates with his technical ability, there’s good potential there. At just 20 years of age, it’s a great sign.