Thiago Almada earned his league-leading ninth assist and is second in the league lead in goal contributions;
The team is tied for the league lead in goals scored (35) but second in goals allowed (29);
Manager Gonzalo Pineda is developing Homegrowns that are contributing goals and minutes with Ajani Fortune making his first league start against D.C. United and Tyler Wolff scoring his third goal.
Lastly, it saw the return of important vet Ozzie Alonso, who made his season debut after missing the past 14 months because of a torn ACL suffered at D.C. United in April, 2022.
Here are a few things learned:
Fortune’s debut. The Homegrown performed well, according to Pineda. Fortune’s ability to seamlessly slot into any of three different positions in the midfield provided versatility that the team took advantage of to try to make it more difficult for D.C. United’s defenders to find Thiago Almada.
“Someone that we have a lot of faith in,” Pineda said.
Fortune, rocking a Braves jersey in the locker room afterward, spoke as if he was a seasoned vet. He played 72 minutes, completed 89% of his passes and won possession twice.
“Hopefully, whenever my next start comes, I want to be more aware of my positioning and the people around me, as well as being quicker on the ball, which makes it a lot harder to lose (possession),” he said. “Also, obviously, another win would be great.”
Alonso’s return. Alonso gave a thumbs up to the supporters he was warming up in front of as he prepared to enter the match. They roared their appreciation.
The 37-year-old was signed as a free agent to help the team see out games. He did just that in 2022 before his injury.
It was like old times when he came on for the final six minutes.
Sitting in front of the centerbacks, Alonso went to work. He knocked down a D.C. United attacker on the wing within seconds and then began remonstrating toward the ref.
After the game, Pineda was one of several who hugged Alonso, who tweeted that Saturday was the best day of his career.
Pineda said it will be a while before Alonso’s fitness is good enough for him to start, but it was good to see him back.
“He brings that experience in that part of the field, where he’s at his best,” Pineda said. “He’s also very physical. He’s also winning the duels. He knows how to seal the center of the field and on top of the center backs. And also, he’s very good at progressing the ball and smart with his passing choices.”
Giakoumakis’ record. The Greek has proven to be a shrewd signing. HIs work rate on offense and defense is being repaid with goals.
That work resulted in him catching up to a long pass from Miles Robinson just before D.C. United goalkeeper Tyler Miller could get there, and then scoring from a long and tight angle in the first half. Giakoumakis reached 10 MLS goals the quickest in franchise history, needing 766 minutes, which broke the previous record was of 821 minutes set by Josef Martinez.
“First of all I didn’t think about any records or anything else,” he said. “The only thing that I am really thinking about every single week is to score and help my team. By scoring every week, then you’re chasing some miracles, some good achievements. To be honest, I am really happy! I am looking forward to more success, and more achievements in the future.”
Wolff’s production. Wolff has scored three goals, the same amount of Luiz Araujo, in just 151 minutes to Araujo’s 1,275.
They are interesting to contrast.
Adding up the distance of Wolff’s three goals and it might measure 12 inches.
His skill is to make run after run with the hope of getting a reward. His back-post run against D.C. United was an example. Wolff bundled in a cross from Andrew Gutman. Though it came from inches away, it counts the same as the long-range shots that Araujo typically attempts.
Pineda said the coaching staff has been watching Wolff closely, particularly when he doesn’t start or is assigned to a match with Atlanta United 2, to see how he handles it. Wolff is putting himself into position to start, possibly as soon as the next game against NYCFC.
“He’s trying to work harder and harder every time,” Pineda said. “And that’s a reward to me. So ... is he ready to start? Probably he deserves it. But with young kids, you have to be a bit cautious and take their momentum progressively because he’s not the same impact in the game as a sub and rather than starting. For sure he’s pushing for minutes.”
Wolff said he’s been working on staying positives and the hope is that he keeps scoring.
“Keep trying to be dangerous for the team,” he said. “Goals, just keep racking up those contributions.”
Two omissions. Matheus Rossetto didn’t make the game day roster. Araujo did but Wolff was selected ahead of him when Pineda took off Derrick Etienne.
One decision was explained. The other doesn’t need to be.
Rossetto was replaced by Fortune because Pineda said Rossetto said he was tired and had calf soreness after Wednesday’s match at LAFC. Rossetto wasn’t going to start against D.C. United. Because Fortune started and Amar Sejdic was 100% healthy, Pineda said there was no need to include Rossetto.
Araujo will be leaving after the June 24 match against Red Bulls to join Flamengo in Brazil. Flamengo purchased him for a reported fee of $10 million a few weeks ago. With his end on the horizon, it made sense for Pineda to turn to the players who will be with the team when it was time to make a substitution against D.C. United. The move paid off.
New roles for wingers. Pineda changed some tactics by starting the left-footed Caleb Wiley on the left wing and the right-footed Etienne on the right wing. Typically, Pineda has preferred “inverted wingers” with Araujo on the right cutting in to his left foot and Etienne on the left cutting in to the right.
Pineda said the change was made partially because of Giakoumakis’ ability to win aerial duels. Instead of cutting in attacking, Wiley and Etienne were tasked with putting in crosses. The tactic didn’t work as well as Pineda hoped on Saturday (7 crosses total) but it’s one that the team may continue to use.
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Atlanta United’s 2023 MLS schedule
Feb. 25 Atlanta United 2, San Jose Earthquakes 1
March 4 Atlanta United 1, Toronto FC 1
March 11 Atlanta United 3, Charlotte FC 0
March 18 Atlanta United 5, Portland 1
March 25 Columbus 6, Atlanta United 1
April 1 Atlanta United 1, New York Red Bulls 0
April 8 Atlanta United 1, New York City FC 1
April 15 Atlanta United 2, Toronto FC 2
April 23 Atlanta United 2, Chicago 1
April 29 Nashville SC 3, Atlanta United 1
May 6 Inter Miami CF 2, Atlanta United 1
May 13 Charlotte 3, Atlanta United 1
May 17 Atlanta United 4, Colorado 0
May 20 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 3
May 27 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 1
May 31 Atlanta United 3, New England 3
June 7 Atlanta United 0, LAFC 0
June 10 Atlanta United 3, D.C. United 1
June 21 vs. New York City FC, 7:30 p.m.
June 24 at New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.
July 2 vs. Philadelphia Union, 4 p.m., Fox
July 8 at CF Montreal, 7:30 p.m.
July 12 at New England Revolution, 7:30 p.m.
July 15 vs. Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m., FS1
July 25 at Miami in Leagues Cup, 7:30 p.m.
July 29 vs. Cruz Azul in Leagues Cup, 8 p.m.
Aug. 20 at Seattle Sounders, 10:30 p.m.
Aug. 26 vs. Nashville SC, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 30 vs. FC Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 2 at FC Dallas, 8:30 p.m.
Sept. 16 vs. Inter Miami CF, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 20 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 23 vs. CF Montreal, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 4 at Philadelphia Union, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 7 vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 21 at FC Cincinnati, TBA