Glass half full: Atlanta United could’ve won
If this thought is making you shake with rage, I don’t blame you, but please wait because I will get to the glass-half-empty take next.
But Atlanta United went on the road for the second consecutive game on short rest with a depleted squad midway through the transfer window to one of the better teams in MLS and created enough chances to win. I agree that game state matters, but New England wasn’t trying to sit back and give up the five “big chances” (shots of .20 xG or more) to Atlanta. That wasn’t the plan, but it’s what Atlanta created in the game.
After the calamitous start that saw Atlanta down 2-0 in the first 10 minutes, I was fully prepared for that score to go to 3-0, 4-0 soon enough. But it didn’t, and the team didn’t concede any clear chances to New England after the opening. (New England created one “big chance” in the game and scored.) So it’s a credit to the team that they did not fold up shop after they faced a massive uphill battle on tired legs early on in the game.
My takeaway: Even with an undermanned squad (a starting lineup that includes the likes of Miguel Berry, Tyler Wolff, Luiz Abram, Ronald Hernandez) the team was able to function, eventually, to the point where they were creating the chances they needed to get something from the game.
Glass half empty: Atlanta United didn’t win
The team did what they needed to do to get a result, but they didn’t get it. Why? Perhaps the team wasn’t switched on to start the game. Or maybe it’s because the man-for-man talent comparison to the New England players just doesn’t compare. Or any number of reasons, really.
The reasons matter less than what the larger body of work has shown us over the course of the season, which is that this team has too many holes — be that quality at certain positions, or general experience, or injury issues, etc. — to truly compete at the top of MLS. They could’ve won this game, but didn’t. It jives with the old adage about a team having a foundation, but not all the bells and whistles it needs to be the best. In my opinion, this team and these players are doing all they can, but because of poor roster management decisions that date back as far as 2019, this team is still hamstrung. And unfortunately it’s hard to see that turning around with three more weeks of the transfer window open and only so many resources for this team to spend to improve.
Thiago Almada looks back to his best
After a bit of a springtime swoon in which Almada play turned from electrifying to invisible at times, Almada has found new life since the shift to the 3-4-3 system has allowed him more freedom to get on the ball.
Last night, he was incredible. He had 9 shots and 6 chances created (shot assists) including one big chance, he completed 8 successful dribbles and passed the ball into the final third 9 times.
It seems at this point that he’ll be staying around until the end of the season at the very least. It’s interesting that there have been no legitimate offers submitted for him. Part of that is down to the fact that clubs know what he will cost generally speaking (north of ~$30 million most likely), look at his 5’5” frame, and maybe think there are less-risky options elsewhere.
Their loss, I suppose. But it’s great to see that he’s not 1) distracted or 2) demoralized by the transfer activity or lack thereof.