They are who we thought they were

The Atlanta United we expected is back...

Jarrett Smith
March 15, 2018 - 9:15 am
Miguel Almiron

© Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports


At some point around the 75th minute of Atlanta United’s victory over D.C. United last Sunday it started to sink in for people: The Five Stripes were going to deliver a big win against a team they should have been delivering big wins against.

Atlanta had delivered big wins in 2017 and many of them went a long way in confirming that Atlanta was a club that was capable of not only getting up for the big game, but also capable of doing the lesser jobs efficiently that a great club should. That said, there was still a big black mark on the record sheet in 2017.

Atlanta lost all three matchups with D.C. last season and they were all frustrating to say the least. After an opening match flop against Houston, questions were asked about Atlanta going into the home opener. The fears of another perplexing loss to D.C. did not creep into people’s mind. It was more like the fears kicked down the door and fired off airhorns.

Sunday’s win helped calm fans down a bit and showed two things to the fans: First, that Atlanta was not eternally cursed in their battle with D.C. and second – and more importantly – Atlanta could still be a terrifying offensive force capable of outbursts that can compete with anyone in MLS.

A lot of the work started with Atlanta’s ability to break down a compact defense, which is not something we were able to say last year. Some of that can be attributed to the tactical switch which saw Greg Garza and Julian Gressel with acres of space to run on the wings and Darlington Nagbe being more committed in the attack with Miguel Almiron doing box to box work and supported by Jeff Larentowicz in his best position at defensive midfield.

Nagbe specifically was considered a player who could come to Atlanta and make plays against teams that packed things in. He rewarded the faith of many by combining with Tito Villalba to unlock D.C. in the first half and put Atlanta in the lead for good.

Speaking of getting in the lead for good, that first goal was a relief for many, and was a lovely example of the attacking power that Atlanta can turn on at the drop of a hat. Frankly, the attack should be better than last year with Nagbe settling in as an attacking presence in the midfield over the more defensively-minded Carlos Carmona.

Everything about that goal screamed ‘Atlanta United.’ Nagbe combined to recover a ball with Villalba before splitting the defenders with a through ball, which Villalba latched on to before outrunning everyone in the stadium and playing a low cross to Josef Martinez who paced his run well. Even Greg Garza was in the middle of about an 80-yard sprint behind the play, should things get pear-shaped.

Of course, then there was Almiron’s golazo and Tito’s header (?!) a matter of seconds apart. Beyond the debris of the Houston game and a slow preseason, a lethal offense was ready and just needed to be jump-started. Even if there are not three goals every week, fans should feel confident that the team can create chances consistently.

Atlanta is who we all thought they were. And more importantly, they didn’t let D.C. off the hook.