Atlanta United got knocked out of Champions League Wednesday night, but the team’s performance against Monterrey left me with the hope that this slow start will soon be a thing of the past. Here are my three thoughts of the team’s first five games.
Miles Robinson is making the most out of his opportunity
Atlanta United manager Frank De Boer has started center back Miles Robinson all five games this season, and so far, he has looked solid defensively. With the injury to Franco Escobar, De Boer decided to drop from four defenders to three and decided to play Robinson in the middle and move captain Michael Parkhurst to the right. Even though Robinson had not received much playing time in previous seasons, De Boer placed his trust on Robinson, and he has not disappointed.
After helping United keep a clean sheet against Herediano and Monterrey, it is safe to say that Robinson will be in the starting 11 many more times as the season goes on. Also, should his performance continue to stay consistent, it won’t be long before he is considered for a call up to the U.S.A. National Team.
Victory against Monterrey is a big boost of confidence
If there’s one thing that we can take away from Wednesday’s match, is that Atlanta showed glimpses of the team that made a magical run to MLS Cup last year. Even though Atlanta failed to advance in CONCACAF Champions League, the victory against Monterrey was also a huge moral victory because of two reasons: Atlanta became the first team to defeat Monterrey in 2019 (they have played over 15 games this year compared to Atlanta’s five), and they also became the first MLS team to snatch a victory against Los Rayados in 10 years.
From the initial whistle, Atlanta pushed forward and attempted to tie the series and had one of the shots gone in, history might have been different but compared to Sunday’s performance against Cincinnati, United looked better and improved Wednesday night.
It’s going to get better
Yes, Atlanta has not played the quality of soccer that most fans are accustomed to seeing from the Five Stripes. But here are some issues that the team has faced early in the season:
- They are under the guidance of a new manager, who is also implementing a new formation that the players are not comfortable playing yet
- Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez is a talented player who is living outside of his native Argentina for the first time and has not found his groove yet with his new teammates
- Franco Escobar fractured his right clavicle and just came back to training a couple of days ago after being out for almost two months
- The team has played five games in 21 days and has traveled from Costa Rica to Washington D.C., to Monterrey and back to Atlanta. Not only does that much travel take away from off days, but it also takes time away from practice
It’s important to remember that in 2017, the team also got off to a slow start, only winning two games of their first six. After Sunday’s match, the team will not play again until 12 days later, in which the squad will get to enjoy some well deserved off days. Also, the team has only played five games out of a projected 44, so for anyone panicking out there, it is a long season where the mistakes can get fixed.