Moreno Leads Atlanta to Four Straight Victories
Marcelino Moreno continues his run of hot form with an assist and the game winning goal in the nation's capital Saturday night. The goal in the 82nd minute edged Atlanta United in a 2-1 victory over DC United, making it the club's 4th straight victory. The match capped off Rob Valentino's time as interim manager, but he will thankfully remain on the coaching staff to support the transition into new head coach Gonzalo Pineda.
The match began with both teams moving fast up and down the pitch. Luiz Araujo had a long shot saved in the 3rd minute, only for Ola Kamara to miss a great opportunity shortly after on a counter. The scoresheet opened up from no one better with Josef Martinez timing a beautiful run to get to the through ball played from Moreno and he tucked it in the lower corner for his sixth goal of the season. Araujo found the back of the net on a 2-on-1 break, but was soon taken off by the offsides flag. In the 43rd minute, Barco played Josef a ball that looked very similar to the goal against LAFC. When Josef turned to goal he was taken down by goalkeeper Jon Kempin, but there was no whistle or VAR review. What felt like a half where they could've been up by multiple goals, DC found an equalizer in the 54th minute on a stunner of a free kick by Yordy Reyna, finding Brad Guzan away from the goal line. Guzan later made up from this error by making several key saves to hold DC to only one goal off their 27 shots, which was a record high against Atlanta (even though only seven hit the target). Moreno's goal off a great build up through Bello, Josef, and Barco was his 7th of the season as he continues to show why he was brought here last September as a Designated Player.
The attacking combo of BAMM (Barco, Araujo, Moreno, Martinez) is so exciting. Having all four on the field at once allows Moreno to pinch inside and play deeper as more of an 8, which is the position he played at Lanus in Argentina and personally where I think he excels the most. This allows him to push the pace into the attack and take pressure off the deep-lying midfielder to connect the backline with the forwards. Araujo and Barco have been able to help out more defensively as well, proving that all four are more than capable of sharing the attacking third spaces together. It really has been since 2017, even before our cup win, where we were able to have all three healthy designated players out there at the same time. To be able to have four quality attackers together for this playoff race will be very key, so let's hope BAMM stays healthy and hungry for goals.
I also want to shout out homegrown center back George Campbell, who entered the game in the 72nd minute for Alan Franco. He came in winning many air balls and looked very confident. You couldn't tell that was his 8th career MLS match for the 20 year old. With a Miles Robinson transfer in the near future, maybe even as early as next season, Campbell will definitely be hoping to take the next step in his career soon.
It was cool to see Julian Gressel last night as he was obviously DC's best player during the game. Him and Josef swapped jerseys after the match, which I know both of them miss each other's presence. Josef hasn't had that same service from anyone since the trade, and the crosses Gressel gifted Kamara and Flores to miss must be frustrating on his end. DC really needs to sign a DP striker this winter, but I do think Hernan Losada is the right man to turn them around.
Last of all, it felt amazing not only seeing the game live, but to sit in the same section as the away supporters section. From being the first group of fans to welcome Gonzalo Pineda to celebrating fun goals and three points together, I met a lot of cool people last night. We really do have the best fans in MLS and I can't wait to do the same in Philly next month. Until then, Atlanta United finally gets a little break after playing three games in seven days, kicking off a four-game homestand at The Benz on Saturday August 28th against Nashville SC at 3:30 pm.
Note: Watching the rapid development of guys like Miles Robinson, George Bello, and now George Campbell all starts from our growing academy and second team. Atlanta United 2 are currently in a playoff spot at 6-7-7 this season and have been very fun to watch under first year coach Jack Collinson. Current homegrowns Tyler Wolff and Bryce Washington have looked really solid, with Wolff tied for 1st on the team with 6 goals. The 2021 MLS Draft class for Atlanta have had a great start with Josh Bauer partnering a strong center back group with Washington and Campbell when he goes down with them. The third round pick Aidan McFadden has been stellar as he also has six goals on the right flank. The heir apparent to George Bello appears to be Caleb Wiley, a 16 year old academy product who was recently on the USL Team of the Week. Offseason signing from Venezuela Darwin Matheus is very flashy. I could go on and on about the promise of this team but you can see it yourself by watching them tonight on the road against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at 7 pm. A few of these guys have a really good chance to be on the 1st team roster in the next couple seasons.