Considering the run of games heading into the international break, picking up seven points across the 4 game stretch is an outstanding result. This idea continued through the Dallas game as it is hard not to be a little sad we didn't beat Dallas or pickup points against Cincinnati given the high points, but it is still important to be proud of the team given expectations coming out of the League's Cup break. The Dallas game itself saw the team start off really shaky but vastly improve through about the 70th minute, after which the Five Stripes were very much just trying to hold on to the draw and maybe score a scammy late goal to steal all 3 points.
Even on a Bad Day Almada is Critical
It is crazy to call Almada's performance in the Dallas game bad because by anyone else's standards it would have been a good outing. For the next Messi, though, the game left some to be desired. Thiago had a beautiful assist for Giakoumakis in which he put a ball into the box that seemingly hung in the air and was begging for Gigi to finish, which he did with aplomb. If he can keep putting those balls into the mix Gigi will have no problem collecting the Golden Boot in his first season in MLS. Almada also had a couple of beautiful shots in the second half that somehow didn't find the back of the net. Despite these high points, though, there were stretches of the game in which Almada was clearly frustrated by the lack of options and service into him as he had trouble orchestrating the attack as normal for stretches of the game. If Atlanta is to fully utilize the awesome potential of the World Cup winner, the team will need to play through Saba and Tyler Wolff/Edwin Mosquera more. When a team neglects their wingers to the point of Saba cussing and screaming it is really easy for the opposition to overload the middle. Atlanta really needs to play more switches to their wingers, which Sosa did wonderfully two or three times. And oh look, one of those balls was an assist for a Saba goal.
Defense, Defense, Defense
Atlanta United's downfall has been consistent throughout the whole season. We are the 3rd best team in MLS in terms of goals per game, but we are also the 6th worst for goals conceded per game. Not great. The Dallas game further highlighted these defensive failures, if that is even possible, through two thoroughly disappointing goals. The first goal conceded was a case of Atlanta failing to get back and defend. Paul Arriola should not be able to dribble over half the length of the field and score on a one-two with Jesus Ferreira. What is perhaps most frustrating about the goals, though, is the poor individual defending. Luis Abram comes up to "pressure" Arriola who easily passes around him. Then, Miles wins the ball but tries to let it run out for a goal kick and instead is knocked over and loses the ball. While this might have been called a foul by another ref you can't rely on that. The defense also needs to be quicker to react and simply cannot leave Arriola open in the box, regardless of what they think is going to happen. The second goal is even more frustrating as it took one pass. Miguel Berry saunters up to Jose Martinez who plays a ball over the top that no defender is able to pressure in any meaningful way and Kamungo easily chips Brad Guzan. The lack of pressure from Berry needs to improve, especially because it's not like he is putting up great attacking numbers. The defense also needs to be quicker to react. Nobody really even tried to run after Kamungo, they just watched him chip Guzan. The Five Stripes also fully got away with one as Dallas had a late winner rightly called back by VAR for offsides. The defense needs to improve if Atlanta wants to be a truly competitive team heading into the playoffs.
Muyumba has Already Made Himself Crucial
After only 5 games with Atlanta United, Tristan Muyumba has cemented himself as a crucial starter in the middle of the park. Muyumba has taken up a sort of regista role in the midfield to alleviate pressure. While not a classic regista in Atlanta's 4-2-3-1 because of his midfield partnership, Muyumba still extols many of these virtues and when his partner pushes up further he is able to sit behind them and control the play and get the ball out of the back. He is also able to attack, though, and this ability to either orchestrate play or push up and provide an option for cycling the ball around the edge of the penalty box is super beneficial for Atlanta. While he isn't an enforcer DM like Ibarra, he still is helpful for the defense as the Five Stripes' defense gets really hard-pressed when there isn't anyone to play out of and the opposition is able to constantly put balls into dangerous areas. He also is by no means an incompetent defender and has already made some vital defensive plays. Against Dallas, the game was different after he came on as we were able to control more of the possession and move the ball around more fluently. The front office made a great choice to bring in the midfielder from the French second league and he will be a central piece of Atlanta's top-four push in the closing parts of the season.