Atlanta United must make a tough decision

CF Montreal's Alistair Johnston, left, challenges Atlanta United's Marcelino Moreno during the second half of an MLS soccer game in Montreal, Saturday, April 30, 2022. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)

Credit: AP

caption arrowCaption
CF Montreal's Alistair Johnston, left, challenges Atlanta United's Marcelino Moreno during the second half of an MLS soccer game in Montreal, Saturday, April 30, 2022. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)

Credit: AP

The MLS transfer window closes Wednesday.

Atlanta United Vice President Carlos Bocanegra, working with manager Gonzalo Pineda, must make a tough decision.

Either Pineda needs to convince Marcelino Moreno to work within his system, bench him or Bocanegra must trade him.

Moreno is a good player who doesn’t seem capable of executing the tactics preferred by Pineda.

ExploreAtlanta United’s issues defending set pieces hurt team again

For every moment of brilliance, such as Saturday’s goal, there were more than a dozen examples of turnovers, poor decisions or poor execution.

And those stretches go for games.

Moreno’s moment of brilliance before that? The header to beat D.C. United on April 2. Before that? The pass to Jake Mulraney for the winning goal against Charlotte on March 13.

Atlanta United is winless in its past four with just two goals scored. That’s not all on Moreno, but the team is minus-4 goals when he is on the field this season. Pineda used his ninth different starting lineup in the team’s ninth game. It’s hard to build the three C’s (consistency, chemistry, confidence) when the lineup rotates because of injuries.

But it is where Atlanta United is now, and things must get fixed soon.

Part of that fix is to coach up or bench Moreno.

Pineda said he likes Moreno because he takes chances, he tries to make things happen. But there is a difference in taking chances and consistently wasting potential opportunities.

Right now, Moreno, to me, consistently hurts more than he helps.

Several times during Saturday’s game Moreno only needed to make a pass, such as the counter when he had Ronaldo Cisneros streaking down the right, but instead dribbled too many times until the potential for the opportunity was minimized.

According to fbref.com, Moreno is in the 86th percentile in MLS this season for Dribbles Attempted. He is in the 33rd percentile in Successful Dribbles. He is successful 43% of the time.

Comparing Moreno to five random MLS players, which fbref.com does, shows Moreno to be among the worst dribblers. Douglas Costa (54.5%), Carles Gil (77%), Thiago Almada (58.3%) and Lucas Zelarayan (63.8%) are better. Moreno has the second-most attempts (28) among that group.

That’s the issue.

He dribbles too much.

Pineda has said he wants the ball to move quickly, either side to side or vertically. That isn’t happening with Moreno once he gets it.

Moreno can become that pass-and-move player. His combination play with Almada at Miami resulted in a fantastic goal-scoring chance for Cisneros. But they are too few of those. It’s a reason why he is in the 54th percentile in Expected Assists and 48th percentile in Key Passes. He has two goals and two assists this season.

It’s clear watching the team that Almada is the better attacking midfielder. His vision and execution are fantastic. Plus, he can play with either foot.

It’s also clear that when Moreno is on the left, he is so right-footed that he will often drift into the middle because he only can make passes to the right. It turns the left side of the field invisible.

If Moreno will improve his decision-making, if he will just pass and move, he would be a very valuable player.

But he loves to dribble.

Last season, he was 173rd in the league in Successful Dribbles but had the fourth-most Attempts in the league.

It is who he is.

It’s why in his career at Lanus and at Atlanta United he has just 22 assists in 159 appearances across all competitions.

It’s why a tough choice may need to be made.

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Atlanta United’s 2022 MLS schedule

Feb. 27 Atlanta United 3, Sporting KC 1

March 5 Colorado 3, Atlanta United 0

March 13 Atlanta United 2, Charlotte 1

March 19 Atlanta United 3, Montreal 3

April 2 Atlanta United 1, D.C. United 0

April 10 Charlotte 1, Atlanta United 0

April 16 Atlanta United 0, Cincinnati 0

April 24 Miami 2, Atlanta United 1

April 30 Montreal 2, Atlanta United 1

May 7 vs. Chicago, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

May 15 vs. New England, 1:30 p.m., ESPN

May 21 at Nashville, 7:30 p.m. FOX

May 28 vs. Columbus Crew, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 19 vs. Miami, 3 p.m., ESPN2

June 25 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 30 at New York Red Bulls, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 3 at NYCFC, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 9 vs. Austin, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 13 vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 17 vs. Orlando, 3 p.m., ABC

July 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 9:30 p.m., FS1

July 30 at Chicago, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 6 vs. Seattle, 3 p.m., ABC

Aug. 13 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 17 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 21 at Columbus, 6 p.m., FS1

Aug. 28 vs. D.C. United, 4 p.m., UNIV

Aug. 31 at Philadelphia, 7 p.m., FS1

Sept. 4 at Portland, 5:30 p.m., FOX

Sept. 10 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 14 at Orlando, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 17 vs. Philadelphia, 3:30 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 1 at New England, 1 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 9 vs. NYCFC, TBD, BSSO/BSSE