Emerson Hyndman, facing his own goal, took the ball, smoothly turned and looked up for a teammate.
Some 40 yards away to the left, Jake Mulraney was unguarded with not a Philadelphia player between him and the IMG Academy property line 5-6 fields away.
Hyndman hit the pass perfectly. Mulraney motored down the flank and put in a cross that resulted in an own goal, the second in Wednesday’s 4-0 win in a friendly scrimmage.
Hyndman’s turn before the pass didn’t include the shoulder shimmy sometimes done by Darlington Nagbe, but the play was very reminiscent of those made Atlanta United’s former central midfielder.
Since Nagbe was traded to Columbus in November, the assumption has been that Atlanta United is looking for a replacement at that position. Perhaps it has been Hyndman all along and Atlanta United is looking for a replacement at the attacking midfielder position played by Hyndman last year.
“Nagbe did brilliant there last year for us,” Hyndman said. “I bring a couple of different things, maybe a bit more attacking. Today I kept the ball really well and created a couple of chances. It was a good performance.”
It was Hyndman’s pass in the first minute, after receiving the ball from Pity Martinez, that resulted in Josef Martinez’s opening goal Wednesday. That Hyndman was in the penalty box is a sign that if he is going to take over for Nagbe, he truly may be a more attacking version. Nagbe picked his spots to go forward the past two seasons, resulting in seven assists and two goals in 56 appearances.
Hyndman said central midfield is his more natural position. He played more often as an attacking midfielder for the Atlanta United last season while on loan with Bournemouth. That loan was turned into a permanent move during the offseason. Hyndman made the decision somewhat easy after scoring one goal with three assists in 15 appearances in league games. Hyndman added a goal an assist in the U.S. Open and a goal in the Campeones Cup.
Philadelphia, which only recently started its preseason, didn’t often put Atlanta United under pressure Wednesday. Hyndman often had time to pick a pass. But manager Frank de Boer said he was very pleased with how Hyndman played -- describing it as 10 yards deeper than what he played last season -- particularly with the long passes to runners Mulraney and Brooks Lennon when the ball was deep.
Hyndman missed the team’s first scrimmage this season because he took a knee-on-knee knock during a training session the day the team arrived in Bradenton.
On Wednesday he said he wanted to make sure he set the tone in the midfield and distribute the ball to the right players at the right time.
“I think it went pretty well,” he said.
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