Jon Gallagher’s 2-goal performance for Atlanta United in its 4-0 win over hapless D.C. United on Saturday continued what has been a strong performance for the Irishman. Through 8 appearances, Atlanta’s 1st-round pick in the 2018 SuperDraft has scored 3 goals as he has stood as a bright spot in an otherwise dim season for the Five Stripes. His performance on Saturday landed him on MLS’ Team of the Week for Week 15.
And it’s Gallagher’s growth that will be vital to the club further positioning itself on the Eastern Conference table. Atlanta are tied with the Montreal Impact and Nashville SC on 17 points, but hold the 8th spot in the East on goal differential. The gap to the middle of the pack isn’t much, though: it’s 6 points behind drawing level with 5th-place NYCFC as a surging Orlando City (29 points; 3rd place) comes to Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Wednesday.
Gallagher has started 5 times in Atlanta’s last 6 matches, but apart from the 2-0 loss at the Chicago Fire on September 27, he has yet to go a full 90 minutes.
“I think that’s where Jon’s got to get to next if he’s going to continue to be a top player within the group,” said Atlanta United head coach Stephen Glass. “We’ve seen George (Bello) doing it; George has come in and looked like a guy that could go 90 three times a week, and he’s still young. I think your body gets used to it.”
As much as it is a physical fitness component, it’s continuing to build that mentality to want to remain on the pitch from first to final whistle that is key to the development of the 24-year-old.
“Your desire to play gets more as well. You don’t like to get taken off, especially when you’re contributing to games,” said Glass. “I think that’s Jon’s next level of development in my eyes—can [he] string together 7, 8, 9 90 minutes in a row, or at least get very close to it.”
While Gallagher obviously hasn’t scored in every single match he’s appeared in, it’s how he’s been able to affect matches in different ways that has stood out to teammates.
“He’s obviously a really hard worker and he’s very direct,” said Emerson Hyndman. “When we get out to the wings, we need players that can run with the ball and drive the plays and he fits that bill. [He] has good timing on his runs too, which obviously you saw for both goals (against D.C.). He’s always on the shoulder of people, always looking to run in behind.”