Atlanta United still plays like Atlanta United, but chemistry and consistency are still in the works – The Athletic

It was a belief in the way previous Atlanta United sides had played. The first two years of the club’s history, 2017 and 2018, were marked by a team committed to an aggressive and direct style of play. Though it has been tough to persevere at times, former manager Gerardo Martino forged a belief within the squad that culminated in a 2018 MLS Cup title.

“For us, it’s about believing in an idea and taking risks to create better attacking chances,” former Atlanta United defender Leandro González Pírez said this season.

Four years on from the Martino era, a time when swagger and a risk-reward philosophy were ingrained in staff and players across the club, Atlanta United’s identity is hard to decipher in 2022 — even if the team thereafter in fourth place in the east is a decent but underwhelming start to the season. There are reasons for this; Martino’s tactics have since been replaced by the conflicting visions of two former head coaches, two interim managers and now Gonzalo Pineda. Josef Martínez and captain Brad Guzan are the only remaining key figures from the 2018 team who will continue to play important roles in 2022.

During Atlanta United’s highlights under Martino, Guzan watched from his box as Almirón, Martínez and Tito Villalba relentlessly blasted MLS opponents with grenades. Since then, Guzan has described Atlanta United’s maturing process as a “growing pain” and understands that taking too many risks during games may not suit the group he leads today.

“The word I would use is balance,” Guzan said after Atlanta’s 1-0 loss to expansion club Charlotte FC last Sunday. “You try to find the right balance between being proactive, being a pioneer and taking risks when it’s appropriate. Atlanta United still plays like Atlanta United, but chemistry and consistency are still in the works – The Athletic

Olly Dawes

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