Marcelino Moreno - He Scans, He Receives, He Delivers.
There were some head-shaking moments in yesterday's last minute 2-1 win over a very game Charlotte FC. The issues with defending set pieces and the relative disappearing act in the last forty-five minutes is a cause for concern - but let us remember that Atlanta is still not a full strength. Thiago Almada is just getting into the team, and it was only the third of 34 games. Heading into Saturday's match with Montreal, the Five Stripes sit on six points, one point from Eastern conference leaders Columbus and Philadelphia.
There was no doubt Atlanta targeted Charlotte's left back, former Leicester City captain Christian Fuchs. Brooks Lennon's work rate and consistent runs down the right side obviously wore the Austrian down, providing substitute Jake Mulraney the ability to take Fuchs on one on one - not a favorable situation for a soon-to-be 36-year-old.
I was confused why Atlanta manager Gonzalo Pineda did not immediately adjust the shape to counter Charlotte's halftime tactical change. Charlotte changed their shape, putting their outside backs in a much more forward position, allowing heavy pressure, and preventing Atlanta from building out of the back. I will not comment on how Pineda could have adjusted Atlanta's shape, but if I am Montreal manager Wilfried Nancy, I am studying Charlotte's tactics in preparation for Saturday afternoon's game.
It was great to see Josef Martinez score, even if it was from the penalty spot. The good news is there was some service into Josef, though he still is struggling with his timing and first touch. As stated, this was only game three - and I expect to see Josef back to his goal-scoring ways.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, Atlanta's front office has built a deep player pool. With players slowly returning from visa and other paperwork issues, as well as injuries, Pineda was able to affect the game by going to his bench with newcomer Thiago Almada, winger Jake Mulraney, and the always intriguing Marcelino Moreno. Moreno's wonder ball in extra time should be a go-to study on how to provide numerical advantage by changing the ball with one strike - this one a cross-field switch to Jake Mulraney, who took on Christian Fuchs and scored the winner late into stoppage time.
I am looking forward to Saturday afternoon. Montreal has not exactly gotten off to a good start, and the Five Stripes seem to be finding their form - along with the player pool getting stronger. Miles Robinson returns from red card suspension and Santiago Sosa, with another week of training, should add to the mix battling Montreal's midfield that includes Djordje Mihailovic and Victor Wanyama.
Gary Levitt @gary1123 justmytake.net
Photo: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports