And so the Five Stripes march on. In their 5th game in 15 days, Atlanta United secured an important three points in what I argue was one of their most solid performances of the season. No, there wasn’t an outrageous scoreline or a flurry of misconduct, nor were we playing a bitter rival (though Montreal is in the Eastern Division), but it was an emphatic display of disciplined soccer. This win catapults us into third in the east on 49 points, one point ahead of fourth-place Chicago Fire with a game in hand and a mere three points behind New York City FC, who have already secured a playoff berth.
We’re also technically still in the running for the Supporter’s Shield as this tweet from Dirty South Soccer’s Eric Quintana (wistfully) highlights:
There is a .1% chance #ATLUTD could win Supporter Shield. TFC would need to lose every game (draw 1 at most) while ATLUTD wins out.
— Eric Quintana (@EricGQuintana) September 24, 2017
But back to the game at hand.
As aforementioned, this was not the shock and awe Atlanta United that many newer fans have come to appreciate (which there is nothing wrong with, by the way). More impressively, this was an Atlanta United that looked solid in every facet of play. We did possess the ball a bit less than normal, 55% as opposed to an average of around 60%, but this fact belies the clear dominance of Atlanta in the middle and final thirds. Montreal had no chances of note until the final five minutes of the first half, to which Leandro Gonzalez Pirez said “No, Sir” by way of a phenomenal tackle at the very last. In fact, it was rather clear that the Impact’s strategy was to weather United onslaughts and rely on quick, decisive counters with the end goal of finding Ignacio Piatti in space. Even when they found themselves caught out, Parkhurst and Gonzalez Pirez quickly closed down space to stifle the Montreal attack, as evidenced by Michael Salazar failing to score several clean chances.
Tito Villalba’s goal was fantastic, Jeff Larentowicz’s somewhat less so, but still important. Villalba reacted well to regain possession in Montreal’s defensive third, worked through a couple of defenders and released an absolute laser into the right upper 90. Mr. Jeff scored his first goal for Atlanta United in unexpected, though wholly fitting, fashion by simply chesting the ball into the back of the net off a buttery cross from Julain Gressel.
HOLY TITO!!!! 🚀
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) September 24, 2017
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) September 24, 2017
Yet tragedy did strike. Miguel Almiron suffered a hamstring injury that will likely see him sidelined for 3-6 weeks. If there is a bright side, it’s that Gressel, who is the natural choice to fill in, is a veritable Rookie of the Year candidate. Let us pray he continues his form. Atlanta United next play Wednesday against the Philadelphia Union. Listen to WUOG 90.5 FM Thursday at 9:30 a.m. to hear our full thoughts on both games.