Atlanta United Above The Playoff Line With A 2-0 Win in Toronto.
The game immediately started with a level of resentment between two teams that clearly do not like each other. This carried on throughout the game - with one team already out of the playoffs and the other fighting to get above that playoff line. My takes from last night's game:
Josef Martinez, after a long international break, did not travel with the Five Stripes to Toronto. Should we read something into this situation, or did the Club leave him to rest a bit more ahead of Wednesday's home match with NYCFC?
A few minutes into the game, I asked Doug Roberson, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution journalist, what player in the starting eleven would be on the bench had Josef traveled and started? Doug replied Matheus Rossetto, Atlanta's hybrid midfielder, which presents a dilemma in my mind. Rosseto was fantastic last night, bossing the midfield with Santiago Sosa, allowing Marcelino Moreno to do what he does (which is sometimes aggravating, and most of the time amazing). While I realize a healthy and fit Josef must play, how does Atlanta United go forward into the five-game runup to the playoffs?
Match management. Yes, two simple words that start with manager Gonzalo Pineda, captain Brad Guzan, and Alan Franco. There is no way that Ezequiel Barco should have received a red card, disqualifying him from playing in Wednesday's crucial game at Mercedes Benz Stadium. Has Pineda not imposed his will with Barco? When Barco got sideways during the skirmish, where was Guzan and Franco to simply tear Barco away from the fray? Toronto, out of the playoffs, had nothing to lose (or gain) should one of their players be suspended, and just the opposite for the Five Stripes. The only silver lining: Barco's red card suspension allows Pineda to play Josef Martinez while keeping Matheus Rossetto in the starting eleven.
Marcelino Moreno is unique in many ways. He has leveraged the midfield duo of Santiago Sosa and Matteus Rosetto to become a so-called free spirit with his prowess in the final third. Sure, I volunteer to work with Moreno on his left foot, clearly visible last night as a liability. With that said, his industrious ability to beat defenders is bewildering, and his goal last night, beating defender Kemar Lawrence, was amazing. Something else about Moreno: his work rate is bar-none, and one can only hope that Atlanta United's physios turn magic with his recovery for Wednesday night.
Last night was the Five Stripes' ninth shutout of the season, with Brad Guzan making a wonder save off of a header by Omar Gonzalez in extra time. Alan Franco, Miles Robinson, and Anton Walkes are a solid center three, and George Bello and Brooks Lennon's attacking runs from the back are fun to watch. NYCFC at home on Wednesday night, sans-Ezequiel Barco, is a must-see.
That is my take, what is yours? @gary1123 justmytake.net
Photo credit: John Blacker