With the MLS on a break for the Gold Cup, it a good a time as ever to look back on the first half of the season for Atlanta United. At the de facto halfway point of the season, Atlanta sits comfortably in fourth place in the Eastern Conference on 30 points from 19 games. That is good enough to be well above the dreaded red line and solidly in a playoff spot.
Even more impressively, Atlanta went 11 games without their talisman and goal scoring machine, Josef Martinez. During that period, they went 3-3-5, with players like Hector “Tito” Villalba, Yamil Asad and most notably Miguel Almiron providing the goals. However, recently back from injury, Martinez immediately infused the team with his confidence and will to win.
Unfortunately, Martinez was not picked to be part of the MLS All Star team that will play against Real Madrid on August 2nd, but that’s what happens when you miss 11 of the 19 games your team has played. Eleven members of the team are chosen based on fan voting, the All-Star Coach (this year, Chicago Fire’s Veljko Paunovic) also gets eleven picks and MLS commissioner, Don Garber, picks two players. Miguel Almiron and Greg Garza were both voted to the Fan’s Best XI, while Atlanta captain Michael Parkhurst was selected by Paunovic.
It’s no surprise that Almiron was voted to the Fan’s Best XI. He has endeared himself to the United faithful from the moment he stepped on the field. His ability to take players on one-on-one and create pieces of magic from nothing are just a few of his most exciting qualities. Furthermore, while Martinez was out injured, Almiron was able to transform himself from a pure playmaker to a threat to score from anywhere. Plus how could you not love a guy who always plays the game with a giant smile.
YOU CAN FIND HIM IN THE… pic.twitter.com/T2FzIFfLee
— Dirty South Soccer (@DirtySouthSoc) May 21, 2017
Also he celebrated his second goal by making an “A” with his fingers and running to the crowd. Although Almiron claimed that the “A” is for his wife, who is named Alexia. A little part of me still believes it is for Atlanta.
Atlanta’s marauding left-back Greg Garza was also voted to the Fan’s Best XI. Although Garza has missed a couple of games due to injury, he has still been one of the best fullbacks in the league. Garza has been pretty close to the full package so far this season; he defends well, but pushing into the attack is really where he thrives. He picks his times to go forward perfectly and has delivered countless dangerous cross, resulting in two assists. The defender even had a goal against Vancouver.
Atlanta United Michael Parkhurst also found his way onto the MLS All-Star Team, being selected by All-Star coach Veljko Paunovic. For years now, Parkhurst has been a stalwart of just about any defense he has been apart of. While he has definitely had some howlers this season, it is certain that the Atlanta backline benefits from his experience, organization and last ditch defending. Obviously, Paunovic wants Parkhurst for his veteran prowess.
Friday July 21st, Atlanta goes on the road for the first leg of a home and home fixture against Orlando City SC. The reverse fixture will be Atlanta United’s last game in Bobby Dodd Stadium, which has yet to not post a sell-out. Following a three game road trip, the Five Stripes will return to Atlanta for their debut game in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.