The Five Stripes bounce back and show they're not out of it yet.
Atlanta United defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1 on Wednesday in a game where in which the team’s performance differed from that of its bitter defeat against Austin FC just days prior.
The win was crucial because it showed a renewed effort by the team and that it is capable of defeating teams above the playoff line, something the team only managed once last season.
The Five Stripes returned to the back three formation that worked well against New York Red Bulls, but this time inserting newcomer Juan Jose Sánchez Purata as the right center back and changing George Campbell to a left-sided center back. Another interesting tactical decision was keeping Josef Martínez on the bench in favor of Ronaldo Cisneros.
Atlanta started the game early by grabbing a goal in the seventh minute. It was a long ball down the flank by Thiago Almada for Cisneros to chase and slot home. In the 32nd minute, Cisneros doubled the lead after Matheus Rossetto shrewdly intercepted a bad pass and delivered the ball to the Mexican striker. On both goals, Cisneros demonstrated the abilities to read plays, make runs into the box, and beat his opponents with quick cutbacks before his shots. His pace has also helped him get behind backlines and chase after balls played in.
Real Salt Lake pulled a goal back in the 36th minute when former Atlanta player Justin Meram lobbed a ball into the box to find the head of Johan Kappelhof, who made the score 2-1. The goal was a product of Salt Lake having more players in the box than Atlanta United did and the unmarked man receiving in space just yards from goal.
Atlanta created numerous chances in the attack, putting up 14 shots. The team found itself attacking more from the wings with Caleb Wiley and Aiden McFadden putting in good crosses and getting the ball to Almada and Moreno on the edge of the box. The use of three center backs also seemed to liberate the fullbacks, who were much more involved in the attack in this game than against Austin.
Defensively, the team improved greatly. Purata’s communication skills were in full effect as he was often gesturing and talking to his teammates to mark a man or push the team up field. His height helped him win five of his six aerial duels and his pace helped him cut many of the attacks along the right side.
Atlanta United plays its next game against Orlando City SC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday at 3 PM.