Atlanta United FC ventured to Seattle Friday night to take on the Reigning MLS Champions. The result, while not a win, was a victory for Atlanta.
This was supposed to be that litmus test and temperature check that folks have been waiting for. Atlanta United FC exploded on the MLS scene in their inaugural year, but some remained skeptical. Not anymore.
With the draw (0-0) against the 2016 MLS Champion, Seattle Sounders, Atlanta showed characteristics of a team that is ready to compete. In fact, one might argue that they are a legitimate Eastern Conference contender.
As mentioned in this space earlier, both teams came into this match with a depleted or circumcised roster. Having just come out of “international play”, regular starters who had competed for their national teams were rested, or not brought in until the 2nd half.
To be sure, this affected the flow and outcome of the game. But most expansion franchises, in their inaugural year, should not go on the road and draw Seattle. In addition, it was the way Atlanta United FC drew the defending champions that should cause cheer in Atlanta.
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Thus far, in the young 2017 season, United has forged a burgeoning reputation for being a high-powered offense that loves to strike in space. This reputation is warranted. But they showed something different this week.
With their leading scorer, Josef Martinez, out 4-6 weeks, and usual starters Miguel Almirón and Carlos Carmona getting needed rest after the break, Atlanta relied on a fairly untested line-up and showed what most described as grit. In fact, that is where this game’s story rests.
With blowouts of Minnesota and Chicago this year, even optimistic fans were wondering what would happen when, and if, the team sees adversity. Could they battle against a good team or are they front-runners? Do they need a huge lead to win games?
That answer came in Seattle on Friday night. It is true that Seattle had their own players on rest. It is true that Seattle had a couple of opportunities that could have, and would have, changed this article and the narrative.
But Atlanta showed that, even with reserve players, they can space nicely, and attack when opportunity presents. Mid-level and back defense seems solid and Coach Tata Martino has a system that works.
Yes, technically this was a draw for Atlanta. But the take-aways are nicer than that. ATL UTD received a road point. That’s important. Atlanta went on the road and played well against MLS elite. That’s important. This was their 4th game of the season and they’ve shown they can compete in four different types of games. That’s important.
It is early in the season still, but mark this down. This baby born Atlanta United FC team is legit. They can play with any team in the league. Each week should show that. This is a fun team to watch. This a team that plays fast, and with flurried determination. And they proved Friday night that, even without their best, they might be one of the best.
Folks, welcome to Atlanta where the players play.