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Five Thoughts on Atlanta United’s 3-1 win over D.C. United

Atlanta United get a much needed three points heading into a mini-break in the season.

MLS: D.C. United at Atlanta United FC John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

This should be the standard

Atlanta United’s 3-1 win over D.C. United Saturday night was a breath of fresh air — a return to what we hope can be the norm in the future. From a fan’s perspective, Atlanta United playing in Mercedes-Benz Stadium used to be a festival, and a large part of that was down to the team’s dominating command of their home field. It was rare to see opponents deny Atlanta getting three points, let alone outplaying them between the lines.

Too often over recent years, that hasn’t been the case. But Saturday night was a nice reminder of what those wins can feel like again — the multi-goal wins where Atlanta can hit cruise control in the waning moments. The challenge for the club is to return to this on a regular basis. It’s not going to happen overnight, but as the newly-refreshed front office is able to continue to add pieces to improve quality overall, I (for one) am confident that more wins like this can happen in the future.

Caleb Wiley is Atlanta United’s best winger

Remember when we were talking before the season about “How will Wiley get enough minutes to make sure he continues to develop?”

It’s funny how these things work out. Due to Derrick Ettiene Jr.’s slow progression in training camp due to an offseason recovering from injury, Wiley was needed on the left wing early in the season. And his performances there were so good that Gonzalo Pineda was never tempted to drop him. He forced his way into the team with his performances and has proven time and time again that when he plays, good things tend to happen for the team. That’s how it should work for a young player — nothing given, everything earned.

For one reason or another, Pineda dropped the soon departing Luiz Araujo from his starting XI against DC Saturday night, replacing him with the 18-year-old Wiley, and it helped Atlanta bounce back from a dismal offensive performance against LAFC just a few days prior.

“I’m happy Caleb is back and he’s an important player for us,” Giorgos Giakoumakis told reporters after the game. “You can see how he is for the club and our system.”

Speaking of Giakoumakis, what a revelation

Atlanta United’s Greek striker scored yet again Saturday night, this time from an absurd place on the field after beating D.C.’s goalkeeper in a 1v1. The goal made him the fastest player in Atlanta United history to reach 10 goals, faster even than the one and only Josef Martinez.

Now, a 10-goal landmark is obviously just a meager total. But the sample is just large enough to show that the rate and consistency of his scoring is legit. And he’s making the impact in just the area where Atlanta has needed it for years — poaching inside the penalty area. Prior to GG’s arrival and emergence, Atlanta had been far too over-reliant on low-percentage shots from range. Now, they clearly have a true forward who plays with energy and physicality that is a problem for opponents.

“The only thing that I am really thinking about every single week is to score and help my team,” GG said after the game. “By scoring every week, then you’re chasing some miracles, some good achievements. To be honest, I am really happy.”

It’s a credit to the front office for finding the player who could help Atlanta in this way, and even more for finding the player through a non-traditional channel. Previously, Atlanta had looked to South America and leaned toward the younger “high-ceiling” type of player. Never before had they signed a DP over the age of 25 from Europe, but Giakoumakis is showing that a more experienced, more adaptable player may be the optimal approach for these high impact Designated Player slots.

Jay Fortune proved himself to be an option for Pineda

Atlanta United homegrown midfielder Jay Fortune (his preferred name) was given his full debut in MLS by Gonzalo Pineda, and Fortune delivered. It wasn’t anything sensational, but given that it was such a big moment and in an important game for Atlanta, it was a very impressive performance. At the very least, Fortune showed that he is a legitimate option for Pineda to use in the No. 8 position alongside Franco Ibarra going forward whether that’s from the start or off the bench.

Three cheers for Ozzie Alonso on a remarkable return from injury

Ozzie! Ozzie! Ozzie!