Ending a three-game road trip, Atlanta United salvaged a point in Yankee Stadium. Here is my take on yesterday's game.
There are many takeaways from Atlanta's three-game road trip which resulted in one point out of the possible nine. It seems preposterous that after losses to Toronto and NYRB, and yesterday's 2-2 draw at NYCFC, I found some very positive trends from the Five Stripes, and few points of discouragement.
Dom Dwyer's experience, work rate, and ability to get into goal-scoring position has been an amazing bright spot. Gonzalo Pineda's use of Dwyer late in games has continued to pay dividends and yesterday's 86th-minute goal again proves Dwyer has the ability to impact games.
Slowly but surely, Josef Martinez is seeing himself back into games, regaining his confidence and knack for scoring great goals. Yesterday's header, off a great chip from Thiago Almada, is clear evidence that Martinez may be a force to be reckoned with in the second half of the season.
I want to have a sit down with Alan Franco. I want this central defender to understand that the game is more than just challenges and winning duels. Being a center back is way more than that and includes tactical awareness and game management. How can a player so talented in the tackle and decent with his distribution be so poor with defensive tactics? Alan, if you want to be an assistant referee (AR), I will buy you a flag and an earpiece. If not, stop anticipating the AR signaling offside, see the play out, and manage the game. If I need to watch an AR perform, I will watch Corey Rockwell, who I have known for twenty-five years.
The youngsters - this tough road trip has to put a smile on the face of Pineda and the front office. Caleb Wiley, who came back yesterday after a bad mistake against the Red Bulls, Aiden McFadden, Thiago Almada, George Campbell, Matheus Rossetto, Rocco Rios Novo, Ronaldo Cisneros, Machop Choi, and Franco are proving that they can handle strong opponents and the very tough schedule. These players will be particularly important in the last seventeen games of the season.
Luis Araujo, Josef Martinez, Thiago Almada, Marcelino Moreno, and Ronaldo Cisneros are starting to be a strong strikeforce. Araujo's pace with the ball and running at defenders has to have Major League Soccer managers taking notice. His supporting cast, with their ability to scan and play-in effective passes, should get better as the second half of the season commences with a home game against Austin on Saturday night.
The Five Stripes sit on twenty points in 11th place in the Eastern Conference. They are five points from the seventh-place playoff line. Back in February, no one thought that Atlanta would be in this position halfway through the season, but the upside is there are a possible fifty-one points available through the last seventeen games of the season. Can Gonzalo Pineda and his players get to the playoff line? Yes, they can.
Gary Levitt @gary1123 justmytake.net
photo credit: FanBuzz