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Atlanta United announce the signing of Brazilian midfielder Luiz Fernando from United’s USL team, Atlanta United 2. Fernando signed with ATLUTD2 squad back in November of last year so he has had experience playing around with the some of the bench and reserve players with the second team. One speculation of Fernando signing with the 1st team was that he was seen celebrating United’s Campeones Cup victory over Club America last Wednesday at the Benz with the team in the locker room and for the trophy presentation. Atlanta United VP and technical director Carlos Bocanegra expressed that he has impressed him and the rest of the coaching staff with the amount of development he has had over the years playing in USL and in the youth academies for Corinthians, a football club in Sao Paulo, Brazil is hometown. Fernando took full advantage and opportunity of his time with the second team and Bocanegra hopes that he will develop as a first team player in the near future. Prior to arriving in Atlanta, he started his career in the youth academy of Corinthians down in Brazil before spending three seasons with the Richmond Kickers. Welcome to the 5-Stripes Luiz!
Stay with ATLSportsHQ all season long for the best ATLUTD coverage and all other things Atlanta Sports, for the fans, by the fans.
As the 5 Stripes get set to host a locked on Portland Timbers team, soccer in the South is more present than ever this Saturday in Downtown Atlanta.
For the first time in Atlanta sports history, the city will host the MLS Cup finals in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium with the hometown team participating. Who would’ve thought that the Benz would have futbol finals played inside of it and not football?
The work and determination that Atlanta United has clocked in over the last 2 years has been enough to cause a rumble within the entire league of the MLS, in a positive manner. Hiring the executives and higher ups that they did in order to establish a solid idea and have that idea trickle down the totem pole worked for Atlanta’s advantage.
Securing Tata Martino as Head Coach, a highly influential coach with connections all over the world, was a main selling point in finalizing many player transfer deals like Almiron’s or Ezequiel Barco’s. Everyone wants to go where Martino goes.
With this being Martino’s last match in the A, there’s no doubt in my mind that tributes will be played and recognition will be given to the mastermind behind the Starting XI every week that’s led us to the MLS Cup Finals.
Feelin’ Good, Feelin’ Great
ATL UTD is coming into this MLS Cup Final with no notable injuries from the main players that have being seen action throughout the season. Greg Garza has been up to 100% for over a month and has been playing beautifully, as if he’d never left. Martino is likely to use Garza in the regular Left Back position to X out any Portland attack from that side.
The Atlanta attack is notable for having the faces of the franchise (Almiron, Martinez, Villalba) but the Atlanta backline has played a very important role in their playoffs victories. By keeping the goals against to a minimum, Atlanta has been able to outscore the opponent and secure the W.
Seeing as we’ve only lost in the Benz twice this entire season, it’s going to be very hard for the Timbers to get any sort of momentum going, to say the least, especially with an expected 72,000+ Atlanta fans making their presence known tonight.
Draw is not an Option
With the immense amount of pressure on both teams, things can go either of two ways: 1. They tighten up the defense and both teams end up scoreless.
2. It’s a tight game – one team edges out the other by the minimum margin.
With that being said, anything can happen in the Finals. I wouldn’t be surprised if one team completely blew out the other. According to statistics, however, Atlanta has a 70% chance of winning it all, and while Portland has been great on the road (taking out Seattle and Sporting Kansas City both as visitors) this may be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The midfield is where the Timbers look the most deadly. With the experienced Diego Valeri aka El Maestro pulling all of the strings, and their ridiculously fast wingers like Andy Polo, Portland has no trouble getting into the opponent’s upper third. Atlanta has to be prepared for fast-paced attacks and counter-attacks that have gotten the Portland Timbers this far into the game.
This Sunday, Atlanta United get set to play their first Eastern Conference finals against the Supporters’ Shield winners, New York Red Bulls.
First things first, the New York Red Bulls are coming into the Eastern Conference playoffs with a 2-0 lead up on Atlanta during the regular season. With their main goalscorer, Bradley Wright Phillips, in fine form, the Atlanta defense has their work cut out for them.
While Atlanta is not inferior by any means, statistically or talent-wise, what they do have that Atlanta doesn’t, is experience. The New York Red Bulls have participated in 17 playoff matches alongside their goalscorer Wright-Phillips, so they’re no strangers to the MLS Playoffs, or the Eastern Conference finals for that matter.
With Tata Martino almost certainly out of the picture for the 5 Stripes for next year, he’s going to want to leave a good and long-lasting impression on the tremendous fan base Atlanta has acquired over the last year and a half. By making the right calls at the right time throughout the regular season, Tata has earned himself a place in Atlanta history by leading his squad to the Conference finals and earning the prestigious Coach of the Year award along the way.
With Martino masterminding the whole team, and with a full and healthy squad (with the exception of backup striker Romario Williams) Atlanta United will be able to give the Red Bulls everything they’ve got when they square off in the Benz.
The MLS Conference Finals We’ve Been Waiting For
Sometimes, it’s up for debate whether or not the two best teams actually made it to the finals. However, this is not the case. In terms of points, the Red Bulls beat out Atlanta United by 2 points (71 to 69) to grab the record for most points in an MLS season. Who was in 2nd place? Atlanta was.
This will be the finals with the best two Eastern Conference teams and it could go either way, to be honest. This season, we’ve seen these two powerhouses go back and forth achieve win after win and claw their way out of any sort of slump they may have found themselves in, only to find themselves come back even stronger. Leg 1 of 2 will be the particularly important because it’ll be where we have home field advantage so we need to make the most of it.
For the first time ever in Atlanta United history, the 5 Stripes move on to the Conference Finals of the 2018 MLS Playoffs.
In stunning fashion, Atlanta took control of their own fate when it was crunch time.
Already coming in hot with a 1-0 score after leaving Yankee Stadium, Tata Martino’s squad were able to demonstrate how much they wanted to advance in the playoffs after two great goals from Martinez and Almiron, respectively.
Josef’s goal came from a provoked penalty. As always, his spunk showed through the cheeky set up of the penalty kick and he found the back of the net, as he has so many times before during the regular MLS season.
After getting thrown around and tackled by what seemed to be the majority of the NYCFC lineup, Almiron’s goal arrived just in time.
His speed was able to earn him a free kick in a great spot for a classy goal. Almiron’s free kick hit the upper 90 of the New York net and before the first half was over, Atlanta was up 2-0. Just as the halftime whistle was about to blow, NYCFC were able to breathe some life into their game as Chanot scored 1 for the away team.
A bad giveaway from New York led to Martinez scoring Atlanta United’s 3rd goal of the game. After that, the score remained the same.
After a bad end to their MLS regular season, it seems that Atlanta United have found their rhythm once more and it couldn’t have come at a better time. With Almiron healthy and the rest of their regular starting XI in good form, Atlanta is coming into the conference finals shooting on all cylinders.
The next challenge will be facing the New York Red Bulls late November to see which team moves on to the finals. The Red Bulls, who took the Supporters’ Shield from Atlanta at the very last match of the regular season, are playing great soccer and beat out the Columbus Crew on a 3-1 aggregate score to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
Interim Head Coach of the US Men’s National Team, Dave Sarachan, announced his 28-man lineup for the upcoming friendlies in November against England and Italy.
No real surprises in between the three posts. Newly crowned MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, Zack Steffen, makes another appearance on the roster list.
Unfortunately, Steffen’s trip was cut short in the USA’s s last friendlies against Peru and Colombia due to an injury. He will be accompanied by veteran keeper Brad Guzan and Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge).
Moving further up the field, both Weston Mckennie and Christian Pulisic were called up once more in hopes to be able to actually make it out to the pitch this time. Their presence in the US roster is an important one seeing as they are the face of the newly renovated and vastly young US Men’s National Team.
Christian Pulisic’s name speaks for itself. He’s been having great showings playing for his club (Borussia Dormund) and in the Champions League. Pulisic has not been able to participate in a US friendly match since May of this year so it’ll be interesting to see how his incredible club form translates over to his country’s team.
Tim Weah is another figure in the renovation of the USMNT and after proving himself in the 1-1 tie against Peru, he’ll likely be seeing heavy minutes on the field.
Another notable difference in the lineup in the midfield is the addition of Malmot FF player, Romain Gall. According to how he performs in training sessions, Sarachan should include Gall in his scheme in order to try out new faces and see which combination of players works best cohesively.
Lastly, the US will only be bringing two strikers with them to Europe, Bobby Wood and Josh Sargent.
Bobby Wood has been recovering from his subpar form last season in Hamburger and since he’s joined Hannover 96, he’s slowly getting his “goal” back.
Josh Sargent has not stayed far behind, either. He’s been racking the brains of the coaching staff at Werder Bremen by showing he’s more than capable playing alongside their second team.
After a scrappy 1-0 win, Atlanta United head back to the Benz to finish the job against New York City FC.
After the match that shall not be named (against Toronto FC), speculation was made that there was no true substitute for Almiron and what he provides to keep the 5 Stripes back line organized and the offense running. As you can imagine, leaving Yankee Stadium with the win held much more than statistical value.
Almost making an immediate impact after his return, Miguel Almiron scored what would have given Atlanta United the lead in the 21st minute with a beautiful rainbow chip over Sean Johnson. However, after consulting with VAR, the ref concluded that the goal would not count due to interference. The city of Atlanta did not agree.
As the match went on, Atlanta was able to make the most of their chances by achieving their first ever MLS Playoffs win last Sunday. They were also able to maintain their team morale thanks to a tap in from Eric Remedi after a corner.
This win didn’t come easy. As NYCFC started out the match, they were very aggressive in ALL senses of the word.
Not only was New York generating clearer opportunities and attacking more, they also seemed to be, well, attacking more. On the bright side, the high amount of fouls led to the most fouls called in the first half of an MLS game ever, another record broken by Atlanta United.
A return that wasn’t mentioned as much as Almiron’s was Defender Greg Garza‘s. Both Captain Michael Parkhurst and Garza played a big part in Atlanta keeping their 1-0 lead intact until the 90 minutes were up. It was the first time this season where NYCFC was not able to get a single shot on goal.
In a team full of younger guys, putting Garza back in the starting XI in a Playoff game after being out for most of the regular season shows how much Tata and his coaching staff trust Garza’s experience and ability to lead the team.
Garza played a beautiful game and didn’t let his position confine him to one part of the field. His scorching pace allowed him to make smart runs on the width of the pitch which allowed him to make efficient crosses to the midfield or to whoever found themselves closest to the rival’s box.
Holding it Down in the A
We’re back in the Benz this Sunday for Round 2 and New York City has a lot of problems to deal with coming their way.
After limiting Almiron to 45 minutes last week, he’ll likely to be on the pitch for the full 90 this week. Not only that, but our home record speaks for itself (11-2-4). In our 2nd year, we have nothing to lose and everything to prove. Let’s make Atlanta proud.