A Former Nemesis Leads The Five Stripes Past SKC.
An announced attendance of over 67,000 witnessed a very interesting game at Atlanta's Mercedes Benz Stadium yesterday. Here a few observations:
Manager Gonzalo Pineda must be a master at picking a lineup. With new signing Thiago Almada still working on his visa, Emerson Hyndman still working on his fitness, Alan Franco not available due to a red card, and Santiago Sosa, Franco Ibarra, Machop Choi and Jake Mulraney out due to injury, Pineda selected a group that included newly signed veteran Dom Dwyer and 17-year-old Caleb Wiley. Pineda's selections paid dividends with goals from Dwyer and Wiley, both very well taken from quick counterattacks.
I am very happy for Dom Dwyer, whose career has been marred by various injuries. While many of Atlanta United's fans were perplexed with Dwyer's signing, Pineda knew that his relentless work rate would be a good compliment backing up Josef Martinez. Atlanta got much than that yesterday when Dwyer came on in the 26th minute for an injured Luis Araujo. Dwyer's goal, just before halftime, was his first since September of 2019.
In my season preview post, I mentioned new signing Ozzie Alonso, who previously played for Minnesota and Seattle. I mentioned my concern should Alonso need to play a lot of minutes, but yesterday's outstanding performance in the center of midfield proved me wrong. Forced into the starting lineup due to injuries, Alonso showed off his experience, tactical awareness, and game management to help boss the midfield along with Amar Sejdic and Matheus Rossetto.
Many supporters were concerned about Atlanta's decision to sell left fullback George Bello to Arminia Bielefeld. The concerns need to subside quickly as Bello's replacement, Andrew Gutman, put in a stellar performance, consistently imposing his will (and sacrificing his body) in numerous challenges. Let's just hope he stays fit with his relentless style of play.
Atlanta kept Sporting Kansas City's attack in check with Miles Robinson and George Campbell playing at the two center back positions. They helped keep SKC to two shots on goal...and with that said the boys from the midwest left a little to be desired with their shooting prowess. This was huge challenge for Campbell, the 20-year-old homegrown signing from Chester, Pennsylvania. We witnessed some shaky moments, especially with SKC's high pressure in the first half, but overall Campbell held his own with one-on-one duels.
Speaking of homegrowns, you have to feel great for 17-year-old Caleb Wiley. Pineda put him on to replace Amar Sejdic, and the youngster showed off his poise and pace with a late 89th minute goal from a great feed by Marcelino Moreno. The smile on Wiley's face after scoring was priceless.
It was only game one of thirty-four, but my one big takeaway from yesterday's game is the depth of Atlanta's player pool. The front office's hard work should payoff well, especially dealing with players inevitably unavailable due to injury or international duty. Well done Atlanta United. The next game: at the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.
Gary Levitt @gl1123 justmytake.net
photo credit: Major League Soccer