Brooks Lennon and Marcelino Moreno Combine For A Last-Minute Winner at D.C. United.
Coming off the international break, Atlanta United visited D.C. United last night. The two-week hiatus allowed most of the player pool to rest and get healthily, other than Josef Martinez, Ronald Hernandez (Venezuela) and Miles Robinson (USA), who played with their national teams. Here are a few takeaways from Atlanta's 1-0 win.
My last few post-game assessments have discussed the main difference year-over-year with the Five Stripes. In a word: depth. With the majority of the player pool available (sans Emerson Hyndman and Luis Araujo), manager Gonzalo Almeda's starting eleven decisions, in a positive way, have to be a bit difficult. In last night's match, Santiago Sosa and Franco Ibarra came on for the injured Matheus Rossetto and Ozzie Alonso, with no clear drop off in quality, match management, and tactical awareness. Pineda also changed out Josef Martinez, who was coming back from national team duty, for the young Jackson Conway, as well as changing the shape later on in the game by taking off Jake Mulraney and going to three center backs by adding Miles Robinson. Tyler Wolff made a cameo, coming on late for Thiago Almada, who got his first start of the season. The off-season work by the front office has paid dividends early on in the season, and as mentioned above, all of this without Emerson Hyndman, who continues to regain his fitness after knee surgery, and the injured Luis Araujo, Atlanta's impact player extraordinaire.
If you call a person an enigma, you mean that they are hard to figure out—the reasons behind what they say and do are not easily understood. Case in point: Marcelino Moreno. He may hold onto his dribble a bit too long, not provide the simple pass, and not win duels often enough, but Atlanta's hybrid attacking midfielder gets it done somehow. From delivering a 60-yard finishing pass to his sometimes-puzzling ability to weave past defenders, Moreno has delivered for the Five Stripes at all the right moments. A Brooks Lennon corner kick, late into stoppage time, was greeted by Moreno that resulted in a header that slowly rolled by D.C. keeper Bill Hamid into the corner of the goal. Not exactly a Robert Lewandowski strike, but Atlanta will take Moreno's effort and three points.
Five games into the 2022 season, it is clear to me that Atlanta United is still not firing on all cylinders. The issues in the attacking third remain, but yesterday showed some glimpses of more players coming in and out of zone 14, better decisions with service, and better chances overall. I am looking forward to Luis Araujo getting back to full fitness and the overall depth of the player pool stepping up to fill in for Ozzie Alonso and Matteus Rossetto. The balance of the April schedule looks favorable, with a nationally televised game at Charlotte next Sunday, followed by a home match with Cincinnati, and then visits to Miami and Montreal.
After five games, Atlanta sits on 10 points, tied for second in the Eastern Conference. Let us see how the balance of April goes and if the work Darren Eales and Carlos Bocanegra have put in really pays off.
Gary Levitt @gary1123 justmytake.net
Photo credit: Atlanta United