So, secondly, a salute to Atlanta United for discovering a way to score not one, but two goals Saturday night on the way to a 2-1 victory over FC Cincinnati.
They have beaten an expansion team (Nashville) and one that set a league record for most goals allowed and worst goal differential last season (Cincinnati) to begin this season. But those are still two wins and six points out of six possible in the standings, better than a year ago when this team started 0-1-1, including a draw to that same woeful Cincinnati.
United head coach Frank de Boer seemed quite heartened by how his team has come together and responded to some early trauma. “We have confidence in every player we start and that we know this is our quality and try to show it every game and understand that hey, if we have to play a little reserved we can do that, if we want to play really offensive, we can do that,” he said. “I think we are much better than last season.”
Nashville felt like a loss when Martinez, the one proven scorer since United's creation, went down with a torn knee. In relative terms, the injury had a Matt-Ryan-hears-something-pop feel to it.
Where Martinez was good for almost a goal a game, United now has two players who have gone for goals in both its first two MLS games. Ezequiel Barco and Emerson Hyndman struck again, to give hope that this season is not necessarily going to take on the look of Dean Smith running a hands-free version of the four corners.
Martinez's replacement at striker did not score, but he did contribute in a time-honored fashion that his European coach with an adorable European vocabulary could really appreciate. "(Adam) Jahn worked his bollocks off, he was running everywhere," de Boer said
“He can be very proud what he showed today.”
In Barco and Pity Martinez, United has the speed and flair on both sides of the field to still be formidable offensively. This team spent upward of $15 million to bring Barco here two seasons ago season, and between injury and national team call-ups, he has missed nearly a seasons worth of action in that time. What he is doing now is what is required of a player of his standing week after week, month after month.
“That’s always the case when some important player is injured or not there anymore, other players feel responsibility to step in that gap,” de Boer said. “I think Pity is one of those players. Also Barco. There’s the feeling, hey, we are the guys who have to lift up this team.”
Said Hyndman: “We still have a very good attacking team, with Pity and Barco. And Adam is fitting in really well. We have to do it in a little bit different way, maybe a little more build-up maybe, not so direct (as in Josef’s bold rushes goalward). But it’s something we can build on and get better.
“Everyone has to step up a little bit more especially on the attacking third. We can’t rely on (Josef) for goals any more , we’ve got to create our own chances.”
The schedule is going to get far more demanding. Attrition will take its toll. The loss of Josef Martinez has to be dearly felt sooner or later. But not Saturday. For one night, all manner of fears were allayed.