Same Ole Atlanta United 2021


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Josef%20Trae.jpg

 

I admit, like a LOT of Five Stripes fans, that I totally zoned out of 2020’s lost season for Atlanta United.

Especially so, after Josef Martinez’s early-season injury right before the pandemic hiatus, and during the MLS is Back tournament where listless performances got the second-year coach fired.

The most obvious answer for the drop in competitiveness was the absence of Martinez, perhaps also the formation and style changes the coach wished to import, and the overreliance on Ezequiel Barco to pick up the slack. But a more logical answer was the near-complete lack of competency coming out of the midfield.

Atlanta went from a nifty, fun new outfit to a championship contender with the arrival of Darlington Nagbe from Portland in 2018, right on time for United’s surge to its first MLS Cup victory. Nagbe’s 2020 departure not only summoned the nosedive for Atlanta, but also the rise of Columbus Crew to last year’s MLS Cup victory, as he joined his old Timbers coach there.

United has a new coach, in former Argentine center back Gabriel Heinze, with more creative schemes for pushing the ball up the field out of the younger, talented backline. They also have a more accomplished midfield in 2021, led by fellow Argentine Santiago Sosa.

Most importantly, The Father is back. And just in time, King Josef arrives for Atlanta United’s MLS debut against rival Orlando SC (3 PM Eastern, UniMas and TUDN, 92.9 FM in ATL), who had a whale of a 2020 season and wants to start off 2021 by finally ridding itself of Martinez’s hex. It should be a good one!

 

Let’s Go United!

~lw3

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SB Nation's season preview does a good job updating everybody on the comings and goings of the Five Stripes. Including one new, important addition that we'll have to wait on.

https://www.dirtysouthsoccer.com/2021/4/15/22354141/atlanta-united-2021-mls-season-preview

 

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Even though the front office has done virtually everything right since the MLS is Back Tournament, there have been a few hitches in the final weeks leading up to the start of the season. (That’s not to say the club is at fault, but it’s important to point out that Atlanta experienced numerous headaches in its search for a center back.)

Atlanta’s center back transfer saga seems to have worked out after the club signed Alan Franco, but he joined up with the team so late into preseason (and tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Atlanta) that the Argentine center back could take a few weeks to get up to speed with the rest of the team.

It may be a while before Franco enters the lineup as a starter, but other than that, Atlanta shouldn’t have too many reasons to be worried heading into the 2021 season. It’s difficult to imagine this Atlanta United side stumbling to the depths of the MLS standings like last year, so there’s still plenty of reasons to be optimistic about 2021.

 

 

~lw3

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The ‘ics keep on coming!

The NBA is just now getting accustomed to the Jokics, Doncics and Bogdanovics. But MLS rosters get stacked with Central and Eastern Euros on the regular, maybe no team more than Chicago Fire FC.

They’re still reorganizing after their second all-time leading scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, let his contract expire in February of last year and returned to play in his native Hungary, and German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger retired.

In came Designated Player Robert Beric last season. A Slovenian forward acquired from a French Ligue A side, Beric led the way with 13 goals for the Fire in 24 games, as Chicago slugged through a 5-10-8 (W-L-D) season. Out went Djordje Mihailovic (born in the foreign country of Florida, to Serbian parents) in a trade to CF Montreal. They brought in defender Boris Sakulic, a Serbian-born Slovak, and Serbian midfielder Luka Stojanovic.

In year 2 under the watch of Swiss coach Raphael Wicky, Beric scored just five minutes into last Saturday’s season debut versus the New England Revolution, scoring on a Sekulic cross set up by Stojanovic. Got that down?

Just six minutes later in the match, Polish midfielder Przemyslaw Frankowski set up a cross that Beric guided toward Stojanovic, going up 2-0 on the Revs. Chicago’s offensive plan of attack seems to be, if you’re reading this, it’s too late.

Unfortunately for the Fire, things quickly got icky on the other end, as defensive missteps cost them the lead within the space of 16 minutes. Thus, the 2-2 draw they settled for at Soldier Field was far less satisfying than Atlanta United’s 0-0 slowing of Orlando SC’s roll down in Mickeytown. These teams face off tonight at the Benz (8 PM Eastern, Bally Sports South, 92.9 FM, 1600 AM en Español) hoping to re-establish themselves as MLS Cup threats, one team a bit sooner than the other.

Five Stripes defenders must organize efforts to clear out corner kicks and crosses, ensuring the ic’s won’t be one of their problems. Just as importantly, the offense under manager Gabriel Heinze will need to do a better job of building up scoring chances, out of the midfield, than Atlanta did at Orlando City. Alan Franco, the defender available to premiere in today’s match, Santiago Sosa and Ezequiel Barco can push the ball up the middle of the pitch for Josef Martinez or, if Heinze prefers to preserve Josef for the CONCACAF round with Philadelphia, forward Lisandro Lopez.

I point to a Buckhead tavern storefront, prominently on Peachtree Road across from Piedmont Hospital, that illustrates how, when an MLS front office gets lackadaisical for several years, the fanbase can zone out soon after.

Under legendary coach Bob Bradley, Chicago won the MLS Cup and the US Open Cup in its inaugural season of 1998, instilling a wild fanbase from the jump. US Open Cups arrived in 2000, 2003, and 2006. The cupboard has been pretty bare since then, and they’ve tried to thrive off the old ’98 formula, only without the coaching and personnel management know-how.

The Fire last appeared in the MLS Cup Playoffs in 2017, bowing out in Round 1. After over a decade in the ‘burbs, they spaced out 8,200 folks at Soldier Field for 2021’s chilly home opener, and they were thrilled to see even that.

The Buckhead bar promotes itself as a Chicago sports-fan draw, large flags hanging down from the overhang above the sidewalk: Cubs (‘cause ya gotta pick a side), Bears, Those Other ‘Hawks. I wouldn’t dare ask about the Bulls. The one other sports flag? You guessed it. Atlanta United.

No one expects perpetual excellence, especially in MLS soccer with so many moving parts from one season to the next. But Chicago’s fate underscores the ongoing pressure in the front office to put out a product worthy of a packed (in customary years) and raucous Mercedes Benz Stadium crowd. Tonight’s a fine time for Atlanta’s offense to get back to looking terrif-ic.

 

Let’s Go United!

~lw3

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CONCACAF Fever! Catch It!

Leg 1 of the CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal has the 2020 MLS Supporters Shield winners in town! Atlanta United managed to avoid playing 2020 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake and the Philadelphia Union all last season, but they'll get a good warm-up for MLS play tonight at the Benz (8 PM Eastern, FS1, TUDN). If the Five Stripes can keep the road goals low they'll have a good shot at advancing to the CCL semis for the first time.

Let's Go United!

~lw3

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3 hours ago, lethalweapon3 said:

CONCACAF Fever! Catch It!

Leg 1 of the CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal has the 2020 MLS Supporters Shield winners in town! Atlanta United managed to avoid playing 2020 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake and the Philadelphia Union all last season, but they'll get a good warm-up for MLS play tonight at the Benz (8 PM Eastern, FS1, TUDN). If the Five Stripes can keep the road goals low they'll have a good shot at advancing to the CCL semis for the first time.

Let's Go United!

~lw3

I used to dominate soccer ⚽️ (ok played it well and was my fav sport till I was 10) AYSO CYSA, you name it. The in the mid 80’s I went full force basketball 🏀 and never looked back.

I can get it going again though! You already got me into the Atlanta Dream, why not this! 😃 

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Whither the Five Stripes?

If you're looking for the Atlanta United Football Club this evening, crowded out of their usual local outlets today because of the Hawks and Bravos, they'll be on CW69 (I presume shortly after Moesha), and revamped local sister station 94.1 FM instead of 92.9. It's a Check Your Local Listings kind of night.

ATLUTD is still finding their way, as evidenced during the disastrous second half of last Tuesday's opening leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. But that 3-nil loss doesn't count in the MLS standings, and they're still near the top end of the table in the muddled Eastern Conference. With some help from defending champion Columbus, who just finished in a tie with CF Montreal right now, Atlanta will have a shot at moving into 1st place in the MLS East by knocking off the New England Revolution in Foxboro (7 PM Eastern).

While surprisingly stout on the road, the Revs were terrible on their Patriots-oriented home turf in 2020 (2-5-3 W-L-D, tied for most home losses, behind only FC Cincinnati for home points), nearly dooming their chances at postseason contention. But thanks to a Play-In expansion in the conference, and a successful Play-In win over Montreal, coach Bruce Arena's team got a chance to show off their road-warrior mettle by knocking off Supporters Shield winner Philadelphia, and then Orlando City, to get within a win of the MLS Cup Finals, falling just 1-0 to the eventual Cup winners in Columbus.

Their roster is remade with a bunch of key newcomers, like Icelandic attacker Arnor Traustason, Colombian left back Christian Mafla, and Cameroonian midfielder Wilfrid Kaptoum. Arena is still working through the ideal formations and "Best XI" starters to unite the new arrivals with Gustavo Bou, Polish striker Adam Buksa and (a finally healthy) Carles Gil. The disorder was evident in the season debut as New England gave up two goals in the first ten minutes against the host Chicago Fire.

But Matt Turner and the Revs' backline haven't conceded a goal since. That allowed Buksa and Bou to even the score versus Chicago in short order, and then shutting out D.C. United in an encouraging home opener. Atlanta will want to use their superior possession skills to maintain the edge on quality scoring chances, catching New England off-guard when they're clearly still figuring out how to organize in the midfield. It's just a matter of time before Atlanta winger Jurgen Damm can use his superb speed and dribbling skills to connect with Josef Martinez and Ezequiel Barco around the net.

The pigskin-oriented settings have long been less than ideal. But Pats and Revs owner Robert Kraft is hoping the new signings will signal to fans that the 2020 Playoffs were no anomaly, and that more consistent contention in MLS is soon to come. To Kraft, Arena and the new slate of talented Designated Players, are The Best a Man Can Get.

 

Let's Go United!

~lw3

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Ruh-roh. United's starting to get the Hawks' injury bug!

Leg 1 of the CONCACAF Champions League match versus Philadelphia Union kicked Atlanta's booties, specifically in the second half as everything unraveled. Now, they're on the road in Leg 2 (8 PM Eastern, FS1, EDIT: NO LOCAL RADIO, TUDN en Español), down an impossible 3-0 on aggregate, and have to climb out of that hole (minimum 4 road goals) to advance without pot stirrers Ezequiel Barco or Jurgen Damm due to injuries. Forward Lisandro Lopez also remains inactive, on excused personal leave.

While advancing to the CCL semis looks dire, and it is, it's not like goalkeeper Brad Guzan and company haven't been down this road before. ATLUTD fell behind 3-0 entering Leg 2 stages in each of their prior two CCL quarterfinal appearances.

This game is about tightening up the central defense around Guzan, particularly coming out of the first halves as opponents adjust their tactics. It's about not being cowed out of focus by Philly's trolls and goons, who need to impress the home fans after a lackluster start to MLS play (0-1-2 W-D-L; 1 goal in 3 MLS matches). And it's about the midfielders and wingers finding creative ways to get Josef Martinez touches around the scoring box, as Union keeper Andre Blake gives nothing up easy.

 

Let's Go United!

~lw3

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We'll need a score and one more!

King Josef re-asserred his throne with a goal just minutes into last weekend's game down in Beckham Country. But the Five Stripes had no other tricks up their sleeve and let Inter Miami CF sneak away with a draw.

Now they face another "Florida" team... CF Montreal... in their house today (7 PM Eastern, Bally Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM, 1600 AM en Español). Lots of injured play-setters (no Ezequiel Barco, no Jurgen Damm), but perhaps Emerson Hyndman, Erik Lopez, Santi Sosa and Jake Mulraney can help Josef and others find the back of the net against a rejuvenated Montreal side that's sitting atop the Eastern Conference.

 

Let's Go United!

~lw3

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13 minutes ago, lethalweapon3 said:

We'll need a score and one more!

King Josef re-asserred his throne with a goal just minutes into last weekend's game down in Beckham Country. But the Five Stripes had no other tricks up their sleeve and let Inter Miami CF sneak away with a draw.

Now they face another "Florida" team... CF Montreal... in their house today (7 PM Eastern, Bally Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM, 1600 AM en Español). Lots of injured play-setters (no Ezequiel Barco, no Jurgen Damm), but perhaps Emerson Hyndman, Erik Lopez, Santi Sosa and Jake Mulraney can help Josef and others find the back of the net against a rejuvenated Montreal side that's sitting atop the Eastern Conference.

 

Let's Go United!

~lw3

The WNBA and MLS? Do I dare. I have my hands full with NBA/MLB/NFL, I couldn’t even take on the NHL! Lol. 
 
I’ve only ever followed 3 leagues.. 

 

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How's about a lil' ATL Sports apertif?

The MLS clubhouse leaders, the unbeaten Seattle Sounders (5-0-1 W-L-T) are hosting Atlanta United (4:30 PM Eastern, FOX, FOX Deportes en Español, "The New Star" 94.1 FM in ATL). Atlanta snuck out a thrilling 1-0 finish with a goal "at the death" in its MLS home debut (the Philly CONCACAF match didn't count), and the Five Stripes (2-1-2, 4th in MLS East) are eager to show a national audience that was no fluke. This game should be wrapping up just before the Hawks and Knicks square off.

Lisandro Lopez decided to retire earlier in the week, while Ezequiel Barco and Jugren Damm are momentarily sidelined. But with Josef Martinez and Marcelino Moreno up front, there's enough firepower there to make things interesting, It will again be on the midfielders to set them up for proper finishes in the run of play, and to work defensively to keep the Sounders from building up the attack for Peruvian star forward Raul Ruidiaz, taking pressure off the Atlanta backline and keeper. If Brad Guzan's kit stays clean, his sheet just might, too.

 

Let's Go United!

~lw3

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The International Break is here! Accommodating CONCACAF Nations League, EURO 2020, Canada Quest and, maybe, Copa America, Atlanta United and MLS go on a three-week hiatus after this weekend's matches, including undefeated Nashville SC at Mercedes Benz Stadium today (3:30 PM Eastern, Bally Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL). A whole lot has not gone right at the outset for manager Gabriel Heinze's side. But there have been plenty of silver linings, and the club can go into the break with a golden-lined performance today.

Atlanta (2-1-3, W-L-T) has played the only other unbeaten MLS clubs -- Orlando and, last week, Seattle -- in their houses and came away stealing points from draws each time. The first goal allowed to the Sounders six minutes into last Sunday's match was negated by Josef Martinez's 86th-minute penalty score, and by 84+ minutes of stellar midfield and defensive work.

The Fighting Dollar Generals don't allow anything cheap. They come into the Benz today at 2-0-4, the product of stellar goalkeeping by Joe Willis and reigning MLS Defensive Player of the Year, Lawrenceville product Walker Zimmerman. Nashville has gone 407 game minutes, and counting, since last giving up a goal back on April 24.

Nashville has also made it this far without having played more than one road contest, a 0-0 tie a couple weeks ago at Real Salt Lake. Atlanta, by comparison, has played 4 away matches, to say nothing of CONCACAF Champions League trips, and thanks to that last-minute goal a couple weeks ago at Montreal they're 2-0-0 here at home. Midfield play, particularly that of Emerson Hyndman, has solidified for the Stripes along the way, and the break will grant Heinze and Atlanta even more time for fine tuning.

Atlanta has only suffered a net loss in personnel recently behind the scenes, as team VP Paul McDonough parted ways following this week's MLS-ordered suspension for his signing shenanigans over the past couple of years running David Beckham's Inter Miami CF club. But on the pitch, Alan Franco and Ezequiel Barco are being reactivated, and even the threat of bringing Barco back in mid-game will put pressure on Zimmerman's backline mates to hold firm, in an environment that's a bit louder that anything Nashville experienced in Utah.

If ATL defenders can keep the ball off the striking foot and head of 6-foot-3 forward Jhonder Cadiz, and if forwards can sneak in one or two goals of their own off run-of-play and set pieces, United will have the Benz rocking almost as loud as the Farm last night. For guys like Josef, who may be playing in Copa America for Venezuela (COVID-willing, given the lockdown currently in host site Argentina), getting three points by way of a W against this tough new regional rival would be a golden send-off.

 

Let's Go United!

~lw3

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    • By lethalweapon3
      Lots and lots of changes as The Five Stripes' official season begins tonight with the CONCACAF Champions League opener in Honduras. Season preview soon come!
       
      ~lw3
    • By lethalweapon3
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      Nagbe has never been a big goal-scorer, but he should be able to help pile on the points with the array of offensive threats manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino can place on the field around him. Josef Martinez (team-high 19 goals) and Miguel Almiron (team-high 13 assists) turned themselves into rock stars in mere months with their thrilling tactics and goal-scoring flair.
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      Atlanta wasn’t done breaking new ground in this league. For the price of an MLS-record $15 million transfer fee to Buenos Aires’ Independiente, young Argentine star Ezequiel Barco (above) gets to don the Five Stripes. By comparison, that amount blew away the old record, a $10 million fee that reigning MLS champion Toronto FC paid to pry free Michael Bradley from Rome back in 2014.
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      Sure, 2017 concluded with a disappointing playoff loss, as anyone can succumb to a red-hot goalkeeper in an elimination game. But Atlanta turns into 2018 not only as a MLS Cup favorite, but as marked men. Having seen this team pull record-breaking crowds while making record-breaking moves, the rest of MLS would add a streak of Envy Green to their team colors, if they could.
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      ~lw3
    • By lethalweapon3
      Might as well get a thread going!
      The inaugural Major League Soccer regular season for Atlanta United FC kicks off tomorrow evening, over here at sold-out Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium, versus the New York Red Bulls (7:30 PM Eastern, FS1 nationally, 92.9 FM in ATL).
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      * Former Argentine midfielder Gerardo "Tata" Martino is the Head Coach. He briefly managed FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi's Argentinian national team, which reached the final of 2015 and 2016's Copa America tournaments before losing on penalty kicks.
      * Team captain is defender Michael Parkhurst, a former Wake Forest star who was the 2005 MLS Rookie of the Year and 2007 MLS Defender of the Year. Before getting traded, Parkhurst previously played for Columbus, where he was an All-Star back in 2014.
      * Starting at goalkeeper is Alec Kann, a Decatur product. I got to see him a couple years back when he was with the Charlotte Eagles in the USL. He broke into MLS with Chicago in 2013, and was acquired via the MLS Expansion Draft from Sporting Kansas City. 
      * MLS announced this week they will expand team rosters from 28 to 30, allowing teams to designate two spots for homegrown talents, like Locust Grove's 16-year-old Chris Goslin [pictured up top] who come up through the team's youth system.
      * Mercedes-Benz Stadium will host its first MLS event on July 30, with Atlanta United facing off with Orlando City SC. Its estimated capacity of 40,000 doubles that of most MLS clubs. In the meantime, fans are encouraged to park at Atlantic Station (off 17th Street) and catch a free gameday shuttle over to nearby Bobby Dodd (off 10th Street), which hosts the team's first 8 home games. [ http://atlanticstation.com/2017/02/16/atlanta-united-game-day-shuttle/ ]
      * No sport has fan clubs as dedicated and fervent as those in pro soccer, and ATLUTD has several. Most prominent is @curtmcgirt's Terminus Legion, who have a strong presence at soccer games all over the area. Other fan clubs include Resurgence, Faction, and my favorite name by far, Footie Mob. [ http://terminuslegion.com/ ] [ https://footiemob.club/ ]
      * The easiest way for me to catch up on the team's ongoing activities and news is through SB Nation's dedicated team site, Dirty South Soccer. [ http://www.dirtysouthsoccer.com/ ]
      Here's a taste of what some experts are saying about this club's prospects in its first season:
      http://the18.com/soccer-news/atlanta-united-most-exciting-team-mls-history-hector-villalba-miguel-almiron-josef-martinez-young-talent-players-roster
      http://americansoccernow.com/articles/toronto-is-tops-with-both-new-york-teams-in-the-mix
      http://www.foxsports.com/soccer/gallery/mls-eastern-conference-predictions-who-will-make-the-playoffs-030317
       
       
      ~lw3
    • By lethalweapon3
      http://deadspin.com/reports-atlanta-likely-to-get-an-mls-team-1307409821




      I love the Silverbacks (shameless plug: the NASL's Soccer Bowl will be here in November) and would miss the heck out of Silverbacks Park. But as long as Arthur Blank's behind this effort, I suspect this would turn into a nice draw at the new stadium by 2018.

      What would you prefer as a name for an Atlanta MLS team? I can't really get with the Sporting/FC/Real/United names. I like "Aliens," but for various reasons I know that would never go over well.

      ~lw3