After signing 18-year-old Copa Libertadores star Ezequiel Barco and trading for Portland Timbers star and U.S. international Darlington Nagbe, many MLS followers expected Atlanta United to set the league on fire this season. One game is a very small sample size to draw conclusions from, but, in this case, it may be warranted.
Let's check in on Atlanta United right before the season starts:
Now let's check in on ATL United after the season has actually started:
A 4-0 obliteration at the hands of the Houston Dynamo exposed Atlanta's weaknesses in central midfield, defense and goalkeeper. Atlanta's expensive, high-flying attack won't be able to score many goals with a broken midfield pipeline trying to feed it the ball. Plus, teams can leave extra players behind the ball to stifle Atlanta's attack, knowing the inconsistent defense will give them at least a few good chances.
Again: one game. Atlanta will probably gel into something terrifying by the end of the season and play a fantastic playoff series against fellow opening weekend loser Toronto FC. But they haven't yet, and until they do we must ask the tough questions, questions like "in what universe is having 34-year-old Jeff Larentowicz on your team a good idea?" and "did any of you watch Brad Guzan during the USA's World Cup qualifying campaign?"
We will await the answers, and hopefully some ATL United goals. This team could be really fun once they stop being really bad.