There were plenty of winners last night as the Five Stripes bounced back from being the biggest loser of the MLS is Back Tournament to grab a 2-0 win against Nashville SC Saturday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. In his first match as manager after taking over from Frank de Boer, Stephen Glass seems to have put the train back on the rails.
“Tonight is one step in the right direction,” said Brad Guzan. “We know we have to get better. It wasn’t perfect, but it was certainly a positive night for us.”
Pity “Golazo” Martinez
You know that period after a breakup, not the one where you hole up in your studio apartment listening to Phoebe Bridgers on repeat, but the one after that when you’ve recovered a bit and you’re ready to get out there again? No, not the one where you’ve already dipped your toe into the dating pool only to find disappointment and loneliness once again. I’m talking about the time when your heart is full of optimism and excitement, when a world of possibilities seems open before you.
That’s how Pity Martinez looked last night. With the seemingly-toxic relationship between him and Frank de Boer now safely in the rearview, Pity put in probably his best performance for Atlanta United, scoring two golazos. He looked so good his friends are saying, “Have you lost weight? You’ve been positively GLOWING since Frank got fired—I mean—mutually parted ways with the club.”
Dare I say it, but Pity looked like a genuine, big-name Designated Player signing.
His first goal featured a magnificent touch as he took a long ball from Eric Remedi, then beat Walker Zimmerman 1-on-1 before toe poking it into the net.
His second was a rocket into the upper corner from outside the 18. It was the kind of long-range shot he might’ve hit into the halo board last season.
“I think [Pity] was brilliant,” said Glass after the match. “His work rate from start to finish was unbelievable, especially in the second half.”
“We’re very happy, this is the path,” Pity said. “I feel comfortable.”
Glass got a win in his very first MLS match, and it came under difficult circumstances. Not only is the team coming off the disaster in Orlando, the team wasn’t 100% healthy, with Ezequiel Barco out with a knock from training and Miles Robinson is still regaining his fitness.
He was so excited after the match that he reportedly forgot what the question was during one of his answers, but honestly, who wouldn’t be giddy after a night like that? Yet Glass was able to get the job done, and like any good manager, Glass gave most of the credit to his players.
“I’m delighted,” hesaid. “I’m really pleased the lads got the reward for the fitness and work rate they put in tonight.”
With Robinson out, Walkes stepped in and put in a solid performance on the left side of a 3-person back line.
Brad Guzan went out of his way to praise Anton last night:
Being able to come back to this club, the first couple of months not finding a whole lot of minutes, but then to step in as aleft center back who is right-footed. It takes some guts, because you have to be brave. You have to be willing to have the ball at your feet and find passes – so that part was excellent for him. He’s somebody who has learned a lot, from that first year he was here until now; he’s matured a player, he’s matured as a person.
Bello took a man’s soul last night:
And overall, Bello was dangerous all night playing in a very wide and very high position. He probably should’ve had an assist in the first half, but Brooks Lennon wasn’t able to pull off the finish. This chart shows just how active George was in Nashville’s final third.
Brad Guzan, who like any good mentor is a little hard on Bello at times, praised the young man’s performance while also not letting it go to his head.
“Tonight was close to a complete performance for [George],” said Guzan. “I was extremely pleased for him because there have been times in training when he does something unbelievable, and he’s fantastic, and then the next day, it’s not that. Being able to see the performance from him tonight, from start to finish, was tremendous.”
Here are some numbers to put Jahn’s performance into perspective. In 80 minutes, Jahn had just 14 touches and zero shots. But in 10 minutes, his replacement Erick “Cubo” Torres had 12 touches, 1 shot, and was part of the sequence leading up to Pity’s goal. I expect to see Cubo in the 9 role from now on, depending on his fitness level.
Center referee Ted Unkel looked like Urkel out there last night (and not the glowed up Stefan Urquelle either). Unkel had a shocker from the opening whistle, and had several questionable decisions, including an early yellow card caution to Anton Walkes for touching Dominique Badji.
Ryan Cantanese said it best:
One thing about not working for a club anymore is I can tweet freely about the absolute terrible quality of MLS refs, who are literally holding the league back
— Ryan Catanese (@rcatanese) August 22, 2020
Atlanta United Fans
Mercedes-Benz Stadium just wasn’t the same last night, even with the fake crowd noise.
“They are a huge driving force for the whole club and for the team,” said Glass. “When that second goal goes in, I think the roof would have come off. Hopefully, when they are allowed back in we will feel that excitement for real.”
Here’s to hoping, Glassy.