Here are my takes from Atlanta United's home-opening 3-1 win over the Chicago Fire:
Atlanta got the three points but the real winner was, similar to many clubs around the MLS, the 50% capacity allowed at Mercedes Benz Stadium. Those 20,000+ supporters were a welcome addition and had to have a positive effect on both teams.
With a quick turnaround to Tuesday night's CCL matchup with the Philadelphia Union, Atlanta manager Gabriel Heinze went with the same lineup he used against Orlando City in the MLS opener a week ago. Note: no Josef Martinez or Alan Franco with Ezequiel Barco as Atlanta's only starting Designated Player.
Everyone, from the fan base, media and Atlanta United's management, had to be concerned about the lack of goals Atlanta United had scored in their first two CCL games as well as the 0-0 draw with Orlando City. At the 14th minute those concerns seemed to be diminished until Emerson Hyndman missed a sitter.
Just eight minutes later, the goal-scoring drama ended with a goal-of-the-year candidate, as Ezequiel Barco took a rebound off his free kick and buried it in the upper left corner.
Halftime saw an Atlanta 1-0 lead with 63% possession, but with Barco's strike the only shot on goal.
The second half opened up with alarming errors by Atlanta's staunch defenders, leading to giving up a very bad goal to even the game at 1-1. Note: Brooks Lennon was replaced at halftime by newcomer Jack Gurr, who along with Anton Walkes and Miles Robinson, gifted the Fire that tying goal.
After three games of some slow and predictable play, last night's game saw Atlanta United's return to a high level of speed of play. Both the second and third Atlanta goals were due to Chicago turnovers and the subsequent counter-attacks. No, not the Miguel Almiron/Tito Villalba-type speed, but transition play that the Fire could not handle. Hopefully, a welcome sign of things to come.
Speaking of a welcome sign of things to come, Josef Martinez, who came on as a sub for Lisandro Lopez, showed signs that he is finally getting match fit. Involved in tackles and distribution of the ball, Martinez looked a bit more confident last night.
It was obvious, with the Fire committing 25 fouls, that their tactic was to slow down Atlanta's pace and counters. The game saw Atlanta's fullbacks and midfielders work incredibly hard, which poses many questions about the fitness and recovery of many key players including Ezequiel Barco. The turnaround to Tuesday night's first-leg CCL matchup with Philadelphia is ridiculous, so it will be interesting to see how Gabriel Heinze handles the starting eleven and player rotation.