Atlanta's Late Game Heroics Come To An End In The Queen City.
In front of a loud and vociferous crowd at Charlotte's Bank of America stadium, Atlanta United's first half doldrums were added to by an "Olimpico" 11th-minute goal by Charlotte F.C.'s Jordy Alcivar. Here are my short takes on yesterday's game played before a crowd of 32,496.
We will start with the first forty-five minutes. Though Atlanta started off well, after the first five minutes it was evident that Charlotte wanted to take charge of the game through pace, ball-winning, and tactical fouling. The Five Stripes looked a bit lethargic and were down a goal after eleven minutes on a corner kick that Brad Guzan misjudged. Pundits on social media immediately called out Guzan - but let's be real, he was and still is a top-five goalkeeper in Major League Soccer. An unfortunate mistake that ended up being the difference in the game.
Fouling. A word that has haunted Atlanta for the last few years as opponents look to both disrupt and slow down an attack led by Marcelino Moreno and Thiago Almada. Atlanta can gripe all they want but this tactic has been used worldwide for a very long time. An unfortunate tactic at best, but one that will continue until the MLS's Mark Geiger and Alan Kelly dictate that their senior referees take action early on in a match to "quiet" the tactical fouls. Early verbal warnings and yellow cards always keep teams in check for the balance of the match - it might be time for the League's referees to act.
The second forty-five minutes were very different than the first, especially after Atlanta manager Gonzalo Pineda made some changes to the eleven. It is quite clear that Atlanta's Thiago Almada is a special player - with his high work rate, clever touches, and great passing, including a 'slip' pass which Dom Dwyer should have converted in the first half. The 'No Joseph Martinez' has unfortunately become systemic, and we can only hope that last week's minor procedure was just that, and that Martinez can get back on the field in late July. Until then, Almada and Marcelino Moreno must carry the attacking load - along with a striker, who I feel will be an impact player for the Five Stripes, Ronaldo Cisneros. Cisneros, on loan from Guadalajara, and only after a few days of training with Atlanta last week, showed off his physicality and pace after replacing Dom Dwyer late in the second half. I feel like Cisneros will be the go-to striker for the next few games, and his ability to get behind defenders should pay dividends for a team that finds goals hard to come by.
Atlanta comes back home to Cincinnati on Saturday night, a team that has allowed fourteen goals through 6 games. Hopefully, the Five Stripes will enjoy the services of DP Luis Araujo, who has been recovering from a hamstring issue. No matter, Atlanta must stay positive and keep the momentum going from yesterday's second half. Watch out for Ronaldo Cisneros...his pace is a difference-maker.
Gary Levitt @gary1123 justmytake.net
photo credit: Major League Soccer