Parties all over the shop
Dale Zanin – USA Today Sports
Atlanta United went from utter frustration and disappointment to ecstasy on a dime thanks to two stunning goals from Thiago Almada in the 2023 MLS opener to beat San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday night.
Here are some ideas.
- First things first, before we talk about what happened on the field, it’s worth noting that the 67,000 fans in attendance created an electric atmosphere at the Benz. The uproar leading up to kick-off was so intense, that San Jose coach Luchi Gonzalez commented after the game in an unprecedented way that it affected the game. Obviously there are ebbs and flows of noise throughout any match, but the way the cherry on each of Almada’s stunning matches came through were moments of confrontation. I feel so lucky to have seen that.
And just like that, boy, it’s good to play on Saturday nights. Almost every home game last year seems to have been either Sunday, afternoon, or worse than both. Saturday nights are great.
- Okay, but enough y’all (I love you), but Thiago Almada has put the league on notice. the Champions League, I mean. These kinds of performances will see the biggest clubs in the world keeping a close eye on the 21-year-old as he has already established himself as one of MLS’ most dangerous players. But he’s clearly an early MVP candidate, and if he doesn’t have any major injury trouble this season, he’ll lead this offense.
- Gonzalo Pineda seems certain Luiz Araujo won’t suffer a dip in form, let alone a disappointing season like he did in 2022. But this game certainly didn’t inspire much confidence. Araujo missed a key penalty that would have tied the game in the first half, and throughout the game he continued the worrying trend from last season of settling low percentage shots from the edge of the penalty area. I hope it’s just a matter of picture, and to be fair, it helped propel play late in the game, even if the last balls in the penalty area were few and far between.
- I’ve maintained my doubts for weeks about the form of Miles Robinson and Brad Guzan about their abilities to come back from such major injuries so quickly. You could argue that the Achilles tendon rupture is worse injuries than the ones suffered by Ozy Alonso earlier this season, who still looks like he’s weeks away from getting back on the field. But if tonight is any indication of how physically they will fare, it will be a huge boost to Atlanta United’s fortunes this season. It wasn’t perfect, but both guys looked incredibly good all things considered.
- This was a massive three points for the team. You obviously never want to lose at home to start the season, but this team is still without many players who will undoubtedly be huge contributors this season. We saw glimpses of a couple in Derek Etienne Jr. and Louis Abram (who played great, btw). But given that the team was also without Santiago Sousa and Georgos Giakoumakis, getting the three points without those players – no matter how it happened – is a huge boost.
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