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One thought on Atlanta United’s 2-1 home loss to Orlando City

The better team won

SOCCER: JUL 15 MLS - Atlanta United FC vs Orlando City SC Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Atlanta United needs help

Following the departures of Andrew Gutman, Franco Ibarra and Luiz Araujo over the last few weeks, with the injury issues persisting for Giorgos Giakoumakis and a lengthy spell on international duty for Miles Robinson, Atlanta United entered Saturday night’s game against Orlando City a weaker team than they were just a couple of months ago.

And it showed. The team was decently competitive and certainly didn’t embarrass themselves Saturday, but the harsh reality is that the better team — the team with the better players — won the game. Aside from that, it was a very ho-hum 90 minutes, with most probably looking at their watch waiting for the final whistle to blow.

It’s sad to consider that Atlanta is a worse roster now (in terms of quality) than they were prior to the transfer window, especially considering this team wasn’t anything special even with all those players mentioned above regularly in the squad. But it surely raises the question for many fans of: “Sooo, what are we doing with the roster, exactly?”

That’s a longer, far more complicated and nuanced conversation than this column will allow (listen to the Five Stripe Final podcast for more of these details and how they are evolving every week), but to put it in a nutshell it’s this:

Sometimes you have to take a step or two back so that you can give yourself momentum to leap forward. That’s where this team is, and that’s why you may feel an intuition that this team is actually going backward. The good news is that the team has been doing a lot of fat trimming since Garth Lagerwey’s arrival, and while that trimming will continue into the future, we will simultaneously start to see some of the new building blocks come into the team where we can evaluate how they fit big picture.

Midfielder Tristan Muyumba, who the team has signed, is tentatively planned to be on the field the next time this team kicks a ball in a competitive match. And more help in the attack could be in store as rumors of Georgian winger Saba Lobjanidze appear to have some legs. Those players alone will restore some optimism, if not at least some intrigue. They will be the first sampling of the recruitment that can be expected under this new management — perhaps less ballyhooed, but more experienced and functional players.

But until then, this is an Atlanta United team in purgatory, still paying the price for past sins. MLS Cup champions are not made by a bunch of try-hards who are dusted with magic by the manager that turns them into world-beaters. No, actually MLS Cup winners are made with ballers, as we saw in 2018 with Miguel Almiron, prime Josef Martinez, prime Darlington Nagbe, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Michael Parkhurst, Julian Gressel, and the list goes on. That’s a winning roster.

Compare that to the starting lineup Gonzalo Pineda fielded Saturday. Thiago Almada is probably the only one who’d make it into that 2018 starting XI. Ronald Hernandez, Machop Chol (who was great before his injury btw), Luiz Abram, Santi Sosa, Miguel Berry.... these are not starters on a championship team, and that’s who Pineda was working with.

This team needs help, and the good news is it’s on the way. It just can’t get here fast enough.