Atlanta United ended their four-match winless skid on Saturday night in the most dramatic of fashions in a jam-packed Mercedes-Benz Stadium against CF Montreal. Marcelino Moreno gave the Five Stripes all three points with a header on the very last attack of the match deep into stoppage time. While the overall performance left much to be desired, the Atlanta faithful, who enjoyed full capacity in their home stadium for the first time since the start of the pandemic, were rewarded in the end. Here are a few thoughts on another frustrating night that unexpectedly turned into elation:
More of the same
All I can say is thank goodness for Jake Mulraney and Marcelino Moreno, otherwise it was going to be one hell of a week for the narratives around Atlanta United land. Because, oh boy, this was not a good performance for the ol’ Five Stripes. The first 10 minutes looked really promising from Gabriel Heinze’s side as they came out bright and looked dangerous. This spell was highlighted by the best chance of the match that Brooks Lennon created with a cutback to Marcelino Moreno. Unfortunately his open attempt in the middle of the penalty area was scuffed about as badly as you can scuff a shot.
From then on, Atlanta struggled mightily in the build-up, often content to pass around the back to themselves and failing to penetrate into the opposition’s danger areas much at all. It’s a lot of the same issues we’ve seen all season with there being a lack of urgency on the ball and a willingness to turn upfield and make things happen.
Just as the match seemed destined to end as a scoreless snoozefest, second half sub Jake Mulraney came on and did what no one else was willing to do: run at the opposing defense. Credit to George Bello for a tremendous first touch in transition on the winning goal. His positive touch into the attacking space set up the sequence for Mulraney to overlap. The substitute’s willingness to go right at the defender instead of settling for a lateral or backwards pass was really the difference in the match.
Thankfully Moreno was able to get his head on the eventual Mulraney cross and put it in off the post. It won’t be a match remembered for anything but that moment and thank the heavens for that.
The star of the night goes to the Atlanta United supporters. With 40,000 filling the MBS stands it was an electric atmosphere and a beautiful sight. The pure, unadulterated roar of the crowd when Moreno’s winning goal went in is something that cannot be replaced in this sport and what makes it the best sport on the planet. Having soccer back these last 9-10 months has been great, but it’s clear to see that it just isn’t the same without you guys in the stands. It’s great to have it all back, finally.