Similar to the pre-game coverage, Bryce Leslie will provide the post-match analysis while I take more of a macro view of each game. Last night's match provides some season-opening takeaways with most of them being positive. Here are my 5,000 foot observations from last night's 90 (+5) minutes of hell:
Darren Eales, Carlos Bocanegra and Paul McDonough: your offseason was hellacious with a couple of failed attempts to sign impact players. Then you turn magic with Santiago Sosa, Lisandro Lopez, Franco Ibarra and Rocco Rios Novo. Enough said and well done.
Last night's win was the first time ever that Atlanta United won their first match of the season.
L.D. Alajuelense was at home, sixteen games into their season, had not lost since November and played a man up for 50 minutes.
Think facetime when you think of last night's referee. Thankfully.
The really good: Santiago Sosa, an obvious on-field leader and a player you do not want to play against.
The not so good: Ezequiel Barco, whose systemic and predictable play adds little to the attack and no second-ball winning in the midfield. His giveaway early on led to a scary moment and his back pass unacceptable. Other than disciplinary issues, there was a reason Tata Martino used him as a late game substitute.
The goalkeeper who looks thirteen with a fake moustache: Rocco Rios Novo: one for the ages.
Next Tuesday: there are reports that L.D. Alajuelense will be missing some players in second leg at Fifth Third Bank stadium due to visa issues. Dovetail that bit of news with the availability of Marcelino Moreno and an away goal, and the Five Stripes should be feeling good about advancing.
Not looking ahead, but looking ahead: four days after Tuesday's second leg the Five Stripes travel to Orlando City for a Saturday afternoon MLS season opener.
Thank you Barnsley F.C. for taking Darryl Dike on loan. Orlando City will be tough enough with their attacking group of Pato, Nani, Mueller, and Pereyra - it would really be daunting to add Dike to that mix.
It was great to see how the changes to Atlanta United's player pool paid dividends last night. Six days of rest and another battle in Tuesday's return leg. It should be good fun.