Atlanta United’s Aiden McFadden making steady progress

Atlanta United's Aiden McFadden dribbles during the match against New York City FC on Sunday at Yankee Stadium. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta United's Aiden McFadden dribbles during the match against New York City FC on Sunday at Yankee Stadium. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda said he believes the depth his team is showing, which includes Aiden McFadden, will help it earn points as the season progresses.

The players who helped the team rally to earn a 2-2 draw Sunday at NYCFC, the defending champs, included a backline that featured two players, goalkeeper Rocco Rios Novo and fullback McFadden, who weren’t on the roster at the beginning of the MLS season. Both started because of injuries to numerous players ahead of them on the depth chart. It was Rios Novo’s fourth consecutive start and McFadden’s third.

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“They perform at this caliber; for me it’s encouraging,” Pineda said. “The team has a belief, and the team has the belief to continue. No matter what is the adversity, we try to overcome the adversities, and that’s the momentum I want to get. It’s very good timing in the middle of the season. And from here we can build up.”

McFadden was drafted by the team in 2021 as a scoring forward from Notre Dame. As the team has done with several past picks, including Jon Gallagher, McFadden began learning how to play as a wingback/fullback with Atlanta United 2. He trained with the first team during the preseason and started several friendlies. He was signed to a short contract a few weeks ago with the first team after Tyler Wolff’s call-up to the U.S. Under-20 national team. He moved into the starting lineup three games ago because of injuries to Ronald Hernandez and Brooks Lennon.

“It's just about doing better than the day before. I feel maybe I'm more comfortable, might be the word. But, yeah, definitely a long way to go."

- Atlanta United's Aiden McFadden

McFadden described Sunday’s game at Yankee Stadium as a different experience from the previous games. He was an emergency replacement at Toronto for Lennon, who suffered an injury during the pregame warmups. McFadden said that was about growing into the game. The Red Bulls presented their ferocious press, which McFadden said isn’t common. And playing NYCFC on its small pitch in a baseball stadium, McFadden said there were moments he should have done better. He recognized that a few times he stepped too far forward, which allowed NYCFC players to make runs behind him. He accepted part of the blame for NYCFC’s second goal, saying he should have kicked the ball out for a corner kick instead of trying to kick out for a throw-in. That attempt was blocked by an NYCFC player. The team subsequently scored.

“The windows are smaller here, but the players are able to thread those passes, so it’s just adapting to the speed really, and then knowing you’re playing against clever guys,” he said. “So you’ve always got to be thinking, you’ve got to be moving, communicating and just trying to make it as difficult as you can. I’ll watch it back, try to learn from it, and I think that’s really all you can do.”

NYCFC consistently attacked McFadden’s side of the pitch. Though he was sometimes beaten, he showed some of his potential. The Notre Dame product put in two crosses, created one chance, took one shot and completed one dribble.

McFadden said he believes he is slowly becoming a better player as he plays more minutes. Lennon and Hernandez are still weeks away from returning. Andrew Gutman, typically the starting fullback on the left side, is 2-3 weeks from returning. McFadden should continue to get more chances to improve.

“It’s just about doing better than the day before,” he said. “I feel maybe I’m more comfortable, might be the word. But, yeah, definitely a long way to go.”

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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 Atlanta United 4, Chicago 1

May 15 Atlanta United 2, New England 2

May 21 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

May 28 Columbus 2, Atlanta United 1

June 19 Atlanta United 2, Miami 0

June 25 Toronto 2, Atlanta United 1

June 30 New York Red Bulls 2, Atlanta United 1

July 3 Atlanta United 2, NYCFC 2

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, 5:30 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