Atlanta United FC: Win Wasn’t Perfect, But It Was Beautiful!

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 05: Forward Josef Martinez
ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 05: Forward Josef Martinez /

Atlanta United FC closed out a ridiculous portion of their schedule with a (4-2) win against San Jose Tuesday night. While not perfect, it was beautiful.

In what is becoming a trend when Atlanta United FC hosts a game, it was delayed because of lightning, it was fun to watch, and it was a win for the good guys. The (4-2) win against the visiting San Jose Earthquakes was equal parts maddening, exhilarating, and entertaining.

First, let’s get this out of the way. What The 5 Stripes just did coming out of this portion of the schedule, with Josef Martinez hurt for most of it, is simply ridiculous. No rational fan or pundit would’ve looked at 8 games in 25 days, without their best player, and said, “You know what? I think they’ll come out of this in the top half of the playoff pecking order.”

But that’s exactly where they are. After 19 matches played (9-7-3), they hold 30 points and are in 4th place out of 11 in the Eastern Conference. They were in 8th two weeks ago.

There have been two main differences in the uptick in play and playoff position. One, Atlanta United FC started winning at home. I’ve beat that drum in this space a bunch. You have to win home games, because it is so tough to win on the road. In any professional sport.

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Two, they got Josef Martinez back. It is possible that he is the most “electrifying” player in MLS. Not, definitive, but possible. Watch his two goals from last night and argue otherwise. The combination of Martinez and Miguel Almirón has to be “top-5” in the league.

There were still warts, worries, and concerns, though. ATL UTD still has a problem letting other teams score immediately after they do. Atlanta still can’t seem to get right on the back-end under pressure. Those two things go together. And there a couple of position spots where the play is way too erratic for a long playoff run.

But did you see the match? The manner in which, after a tense and sloppy 1st half, Atlanta United FC went about their business in the 2nd half was like watching artistry in motion. That’s not hyperbole.

Criticism of soccer in the United States usually revolves around the pace of play, flopping, and the idea of ties. Generally speaking, I’m sympathetic to those arguments. But not with this team.

If you could watch that match yesterday, and see how ATL UTD moved, swayed, passed, and coordinated, and not be enthused, you might be dead inside. Or just a contrarian. Or a San Jose fan.

City of Atlanta, your MLS Soccer team is one that executes a deadly artistry. Because of that, they are now, at the halfway point, firmly ensconced in playoff chatter.

It’s not a mirage. It’s a Michelangelo. Go ahead and buy it.

Related Story: Atlanta United FC: Big Stretch Heading Into the Midway Point of Season