The Five Stripes End a Three-Game Homestand with a Draw Against Orlando City.
Taking four points from a three-game homestand is not exactly something to gloat about. With that said, considering the drubbing Austin FC gave Atlanta in the first of the three home games, and the subsequent fallout from that game, getting a win midweek against Real Salt Lake and a draw against always-resilient Orlando City will have to suffice. Here are a few short takes from yesterday's game.
I will be very short and clear with the excellent tenth-minute free kick by Orlando's Mauricio Pereyra. Atlanta's goalkeeper, Rocco Rios Novo, though relatively young, has a good amount of experience at the professional level. Somehow, there was a failure to communicate between referee Victor Rivas and Rios Novo - one that I will leave alone so that I do not get fined by Jeff Agoos and the League. :)
Yes, Orlando City "quit" playing after Pereyra's tenth-minute goal, but there is no excuse with Atlanta's first half play. Though dominant with possession, shots, and key passes, the Five Stripes could not consistently break down Orlando's defensive tactics until manager Gonzalo Pineda introduced Josef Martinez and Gabriel Almada in the 60th minute. I will ask the obvious question: With the lack of attacking presence in the first half, why wait until the 60th minute to add Martinez and Almada, and the 74th minute to add Dom Dwyer to the mix? Why not at halftime? I know, it is easy for me to question the timing of the substitutes, but based on a number of games, I feel these changes should have come at halftime.
Juanjo Purata - the defender Atlanta United acquired from Tigres could turn out to be a gem. Though he has only seen limited minutes of competitive action since April, Purata has fit into the side very well, seems to be a leader, and is good with the ball at his feet, and excellent in the air. That header yesterday was outstanding (as well as the service from Thiago Almada).
Orlando City goalkeeper Pedro Gallese - how in the world he has not been swallowed up by a big club in Europe is beyond me? The save he made from Dom Dwyer's strike in the 82nd minute was simply ridiculous.
Darren Eales will depart for Newcastle United. I had the chance to meet Darren early on in his Atlanta tenure, back in 2014. You can only make a first impression once, and at a lunch, while watching his former Tottenham side, he was both personable and impressionable. “Doing” a startup in any type of business can be very difficult, especially in the professional sports space, and especially with the sport being soccer. Arthur Blank’s vision and Jim Smith’s planning and implementation of Atlanta’s Major League Soccer franchise is well-documented. Darren Eales was hired to execute the plan, and his efforts have paid off for Atlanta United on and off the field. Eales did many things really well, with Atlanta winning trophies and leading the league in attendance since its inception in the 2017 season. I really like Darren Eales, and his departure for Newcastle is a fantastic step for his career. To Darren Eales: a job very well done. You helped put Atlanta on the world’s map as a soccer town – all the best for continued success at Newcastle!
Atlanta sits two points below the seventh-place playoff line and heads to Los Angeles to play the Galaxy, before going to the Windy City to take on Chicago. Hopefully, yesterday's announced crowd of 42,526 left Mercedes Benz Stadium feeling like the Five Stripes have turned the corner and are ready to impose their will in the last fourteen games of the regular season.
Gary Levitt @gary1123 justmytake.net
photo credit: Atlanta United FC