Better Form, Now Need Better Results
After the firing of manager Gabriel Heinze after just thirteen league matches, the club has shown life. Yes, they have only gotten one point under interim manager Rob Valentino. But, shots on goal and key passes have doubled through these two versus the first thirteen. Let's shine some positive lights when we can on this dark season.
The most important thing to note is that the defense hasn't lost too much power while missing Brad Guzan, Miles Robinson, and George Bello. Alec Kann has been rather exceptional in net, while Alan Franco has been a beast after his slow start. Ronald Hernandez on the left flank struggled defensively in Cincinnati, but still found a way to score the late equalizer. The Marcelino Moreno critics have gotten rather quiet. The cross bar and some amazing saves against Marcie are his only weaknesses lately. He is so so close in finding a much needed rhythm as a playmaker in the attacking third. I know I never stopped believing in him yet, he's showed me enough to think it's going to click soon. The first half of this match felt similar to the first half of the Union CCL meltdown where Atlanta clearly dominated. Once we got to half I got nervous we would be punished for not scoring, which proved to be right. But did I still have fun watching this half? You're darn right. If the players show heart and are given the attacking freedom to try to win, I'll support them. But... we need to start getting results as this winless streak is now up to 10 games. I know this is a weird situation for everyone involved and at least they all seem closer to the same page than they did a week ago.
In terms of looking ahead, Darren Eales provided an update that they are in their search for the next manager. My dream hire was Heinze last fall, so I will not be providing my takes in who I want next. I just want a better tactical system in place. Everyone guts this roster but in MLS I've seen plenty of teams with less talent than this run through other teams because their tactics were much stronger. This is the front office's last shot to turn this around.
If the talent does bother you though, the attack might be getting one of the best prospects in South America. Atlanta United reportedly has submitted a bid to Velez Sarsfield for Thiago Almada, a 20 year old attacking midfielder currently valued at $22 million (Transfermarkt). With his former coach being let go, I thought this rumor would've went down the drain, but multiple top South American outlets have said Atlanta is very close to Velez's asking price. You can fault the front office for ripping apart the roster with bad signings, but no matter how Almada does if he comes here you can't blame them here. Almada has been rumored to leave for Europe for quite some time, but the latest club Marseille in France couldn't reach Velez's number. Those arguing that we shouldn't sign players until we have our new manager need to consider the type of player Almada is. This might be the last window we have to get a player of his caliber. The secondary transfer window ends in 11 days, so we have to work quick on this. The only question comes down to how we fit him in the budget. No one is really sure how much money we have available. The first option seems to be to buy down Alan Franco with allocation money to open a Designated Player slot, while the second option is selling Ezequiel Barco. There has not been any rumors in terms of selling Barco, but we learned last fall with Pity Martinez transfers can work fast. I am pretty sure Almada will qualify as a Young DP. We will see how this develops over the next week.
If there is any way the Five Stripes can earn three points Friday, it will be a massive boost moving forward. Only two matches until we're halfway done the season. Luckily, MLS all you have to do is make the playoffs to have a chance. But if this winless streak continues, it's going to get harder and harder to gain ground.