Atlanta United got off to a winning start in their first preseason match of 2018 with a 3-1 victory over USL debutants Nashville SC. But as is often the case in preseason, the play itself was more important than the score line, and there were promising signs for year two in the Five Stripes.
“Our quality on the ball, our passes, our decision-making, that can all be sharper. But that’s all expected in our first preseason match,” said goalkeeper Brad Guzan. “It’s important that you do the dirty work in terms of fitness and making sure you’re ready to go. But ultimately this is what it’s all about, playing games and getting out there and getting on the ball.”
“They forced us to play a high-level game with high tempo, and we also got to see how some of the newer players are working together now,” head coach Tata Martino added, through a translator. “Maybe with the level of players that we have, we could have created a few more chances. But it was good to see Nagbe, Barco and Zizzo playing together for their first game.”
Many Atlanta United fans will remember Saturday as the first chance to see those new faces in the Five Stripes. Guzan, who had to settle into the team in the middle of a grueling season last year, said it’s a positive start, but it’s only the beginning.
“They’ve fit in quite easily and they’ve picked up the ideas and methods that our manager wants to impose on other teams and how we want to play. They’ve been able to pick that up, so it’s a credit to their soccer brains if you will and their ability on the ball.”
On top of the new faces in the lineup, ATL UTD fans got a sneak peek of a new formation. Coach Martino says the three-man back line, which made only a brief appearance last year, could be something fans can expect more of this year.
“Last year we played a formation that was able to get us pretty good results, but we’re working on adding some new things this season,” Martino said. “[The three-man backline] is one we’ve been working on a lot in the preseason, so I thought it was a good opportunity for us to try that for 25 minutes in the second half.”
“We’ve got the soccer IQ on the field to adjust in certain moments of the game,” Guzan said. “It’s something that we’re learning, that we’re comfortable with, and I know it’s something we want to have in our back pocket so we can use it at any moment.”
It was an especially memorable night for Romario Williams who, more than a year after signing with the club, made his official debut. It was only made better by doing what strikers do best: getting on the scoresheet.
“It was a good feeling just to get out there and get in a real game-like situation, said the Jamaican international. “Whenever I’m given the opportunity I’ll be ready to deliver and do my best to score goals for this team and contribute in whichever way I can. I’m confident coming off the bench, my job is to compete just like everybody else for a spot on the team. We know it’s not going to be easy, it’s a challenge and it’s difficult, but I’m prepared and ready to go.”
The Atlanta United squad is now back in Atlanta, continuing their offseason regimen as they prepare for the regular season. They will start their regular season on the road in Houston before making their Mercedes-Benz stadium return in their home debut on March 11th. Tickets for that match are still available, get yours here.