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Takeaways From Atlanta United's Inaugural Home Game of the Season

Atlanta came out with a game plan and tactical setup that saw them cruise past the New England Revolution en route to a comfortable 4-1 victory in front of over 67 thousand loyal supporters. The win was highlighted by the return of Giakoumakis to peak scoring form. He had said the bar was a golden boot this year and this performance will give him, his teammates, and the fans confidence in his ability to meet those aspirations. In addition, Almada got on the scoreboard from twelve yards out and the 17s got to see Atlanta's revamped defense for the first time. Largely, the takeaways are all positive as there are signs the team has a high ceiling, they just have to clean up the play some.

Gigi Strikes Again

The most obvious takeaway from the match was the re-emergence of Giakoumakis to his form last season. The Greek striker will most definitely be looking to settle into strong form to start the season and look to be someone teams have to worry about when they see Atlanta on the schedule. Against New England, he took home the man of the match with 3 goals, a penalty won, and 100% long ball accuracy. When he was able to get on the ball, he was difficult for the Revs to contend with but he was frustrated with lack of service in the first half, something that clearly got addressed at half-time. When he got on the ball, though, he was evidently dangerous and he is also getting smarter about where to be to try to optimize the chances he can get. In this match, there were several instances of him rotating with Saba and Xande to be on the back post where he can just bully the ball into the goal. This was what caused the penalty he drew and his second and third goals (go watch them again and you'll see the importance of this simple rotation). Giakoumakis has to feel confident in his abilities going into his first full MLS season for Atlanta, and a confident striker is dangerous.

The Defense Held Strong--Mostly

Another one of the major storylines that emerged leading up to kickoff was getting to see the totally new center back pair of Derrick Williams and Stian Gregersen, as well as Bartosz Slisz in the 6 role. Overall, the game was really positive defensively as, other than a classic bs Revs goal that caught the team sleeping, the defense never really conceded any strong chances. In the first half, the back line conceded only four poor shots with an xG total of only 0.19. And just one of the shots was on target, a tame effort from Chancalay at the edge of the box. The first half showed how the defense can snuff out any serious chances and the benefits of having a fast center back who is also somehow 6 foot 3. The second half saw the Revs fight to get into the game more but, ignoring the previously mentioned defensive lapse, United still managed to limit New England to an xG of under .5. This was down to a team effort at the back with Slisz and Muyumba pairing quite well to press the ball in front of a stalwart back line led by the new signings. Even Brooks Lennon had a good game defensively as he held back more in the first half to fulfill more of his defensive duties with 6 defensive actions and 8 ball recoveries, in addition to his attacking presence which led to an assist. The game wasn't perfect defensively as Atlanta had a classic mental shutoff at the back and didn't press Gil at all for his goal, but it is a very solid base line to build on throughout the long season ahead of us.

Seeing Tactics Is Refreshing

Perhaps the most promising takeaway from the night was the undeniable presence of an actual gameplan and tactical decisions. All too often it felt like Atlanta would just put 11 players on the field and hope someone would do something last year, but in this game there were clearly tactical decisions and flashes of potential. The team is definitely still sloppy and needs some time together but amidst the miscommunications there were give-and-gos, a focus on vertical passes, and rotations in the midfield. The focus on basics, looking to play to where the man will be rather than where he is right now and simple one touch passing, was refreshing and reassuring. The team finally is doing the basics which allows them to start to now do some of the more advanced tactical ideas Pineda might want the team to do. This was seen most in the rotations. Gigi rotating to the far post as mentioned earlier is super basic but also infinitely helpful and it led to three goals. The midfield also had rotations as Almada moves to the ball to be a creative outlet, Muyumba then fills his role as an orchestrator in the middle, and Slisz covers the space behind him. This let Almada get on the ball a lot in various positions but not leave acres of space behind him. This tactical decision didn't directly lead to three goals like Giakoumakis at the far post, but it was super beneficial in the buildup and has potential to cause problems when more passes are connecting in a few weeks.

1 Comment

Atlanta with a solid back line is a frightening thing… and looked good vs a quality opponent (albeit a tired one with mid-week games, but whatever). Can’t wait to see how the season plays out! The Benz will be a fortresss!

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