Updated: Jul 28
In a game that saw Atlanta United play none of their designated players and a record six homegrown players, Atlanta could do far worse than a draw. Atlanta dominated possession and shots and saw both of their goals come from players that came through the 2s. That being said, dominating statistically was expected against a New York team that has failed to do anything in attack this year.
While we could work on our accuracy with long balls, this was an overwhelmingly positive takeaway for me. Atlanta has some really good, fast players in attack and an easy way to expose many of the slower MLS defenses is to play balls over the top. In this game, we saw Caleb Wiley own his man and if we had played long balls just a little bit better he could have been through one-on-one with the keeper multiple times. In addition, Tyler Wolff is so good about knowing where to be and timing his runs (it happens when your dad coaches Austin FC) and could have easily been through several times. Then to round off a dangerous front three, Giakoumakis is very dangerous when hanging off his defender's shoulder and even scored on a ball over the top against DC.
Not everything from the game can be positive and while we owned their attack for most of the game, there were two individual mistakes and two NYCFC goals. While I know that all teams deal with individual mistakes, too many of the goals we concede come from individual mistakes. Against NYCFC, it was Andrew Gutman and Ajani Fortune who were at fault. Gutman conceding the goal in the first minute is the one that really annoys me because this is far from the first time he has cost us a goal by not pressing. He always stays off of his man to not get beat and then they just shoot past him. While I understand not wanting to get burnt when 25 or 30 yards out, you can't stand off of your man in and around the penalty box. This is what made us concede to Bernardeschi, this was the third goal for the Revs, etc. Gutman needs to get better at defending in and around the box. Ajani Fortune's mistake was also poor because there was nobody around him. All he has to do is settle the ball and get it out of the back and he knocks it down for Gabriel Pereira to finish easily.
Young Players Stepping Up
Returning to the positive, any MLS team without their DPs should, realistically, not stand a chance. Despite missing both Giakoumakis and Almada who have contributed to 23 of Atlanta's 35 goals coming into the New York game, Atlanta managed to hold their own and score twice because of some major success stories with young academy players. In the game, Caleb Wiley, Noah Cobb, and Tyler Wolff played great, and other than his mistake Ajani Fortune played very well in the middle of the park and even sort of got an assist. And while Nic Firmino and Luke Brennan didn't get much time on the field, they both held their own and Nic Firmino even continued his ridiculous run of form with the 2s to the Benz, bagging his twelfth goal contribution in 15 games across all competitions. While the DPs will both be returning right into the starting 11 on Saturday, many of these young players have proved that they deserve more playing time.