Gonzalo Pineda Steps Into A Pressure-Cooker With Atlanta United.
Atlanta United's season, after twenty-one games, with 13 to go, has been an enigma. The combination of injuries and players away for international obligations, puts the Five Stripes on 27 points, in eighth place only due to goal differential. The other factor one must consider is the influence, or lack thereof, of Gabriel Heinze. Their former manager, new to Major League Soccer, failed to follow and deliver on the overall ethos of the Club, while alienating some players with his training methodology and restrictive tactics.
The upside is that Atlanta's President, Darren Eales, decided to fire Heinze before the entire season went down the tubes. Eales could have given Heinze a longer leash, but most likely made his decision not based on emotion, but the hard facts. The Five Stripes and Eales have no appetite for descension combined with a poor record.
There is the infamous cost of living increase (COL) 'awarded' to employees heading into a new year. There is also contractual language outlined in some employment agreements that spell out bonus caveats based on performance and milestones. At some entities, the so-called merit increase or bonus also comes into play. If there is anyone in the soccer world who deserves a bonus based on merit, it is Rob Valentino. Thrown into a very tough and precarious interim manager position, he used his experience and persona to quickly build consensus among the player pool. In my opinion, he 'unleashed the fury' desperately needed to get his team performing at a much higher level. Whatever and however Valentino was able to impose his will saved the Five Stripes' season. Let's hope that 'merit bonus' kicked in for him.
Marcelino Moreno and Luiz Araujo. If I am an opposing manager, I am very concerned with these two players. Moreno, as stated above, has been unleashed to get forward and challenge defenders with his unique way of setting up defenders in one-on-one situations. Araujo, only after a couple of games, is a bit different with his approach and style, but equally dangerous going forward. Araujo is all about vision, already having one or two options before he receives the ball. Blend these two players with Josef Martinez and the seemingly matured Ezequiel Barco, and you offer up a front four that have opposing managers scrambling.
The Fives Stripes host a very hot Nashville side Saturday afternoon at Mercedes Benz Stadium, and then have a nice break before playing three games in 8 days from September 10 to September 18. These four games are key to Atlanta securing a playoff spot - one would think they need to take nine out of the possible 12 points from these 4 games.
On another note, I thought I would chime in on the USWNT and The Olympic Games. For me, it was not just that our women came home with only the bronze medal - disappointing in itself. My concern is that many times they just simply looked to be overmatched, from both tactics and physicality. I have no ill will towards manager Vlatko Andonovski - he is a proven manager with what seems like a great relationship with his player pool. My take is that his player pool selection did not set the U.S. women up for success. His tactics were mundane at best, and some of his players just could not match up physically with some of their opponents. Again, this is not a witch hunt against Andonovski, but if I am USWNT General Manager Kate Markgraf, I am taking a very hard look at Becky Burleigh. Recently brought on to manage the NWSL's Orlando Pride, Burleigh's positive persona and player pool management, as well as her twenty-six years of experience running the Florida Gators' program, makes me think that she is a great choice in the run up to the 2023 Women's World Cup.
That is my take, what is yours? @gary1123 justmytake.net