United facing road woes through mid-season

Defender Brooks Lennon delivers a pass during Atlanta United’s recent home win over Inter Miami. // Photo courtesy of David J Griffin, Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Atlanta United have yet to put a run together after a quick start to the season that saw them hold a record of 3-1-1 (wins-draws-losses) through five games. Road struggles have pushed the team down the standings as United have only secured one win away from Mercedes Benz Stadium, a 1–0 victory over DC United on April 2.

Since the hot start, their record has fallen to 5-4-6 as they now sit on the outside of the playoff picture as of June 29. Despite the road struggles and lack of wins over the past couple of months, Atlanta boasts a positive goal differential and has games in hand over some of the teams higher in the standings.

After two games in New York, the team returns to Atlanta for a three-game homestand. They will need to secure points in the weeks ahead to remain viable in the playoff hunt, but with 19 games still remaining on the schedule there is plenty of time to improve. Boosting the team in recent games is the return of Josef Martinez, Atlanta’s star striker and 2018 League MVP.

He is tied for the team lead in combined goals and assists despite only appearing in eight matches. Luis Araujo has been United’s biggest contributor after joining the team from Ligue 1’s Lille last season. He is tied for the team lead in goals, combined goals and assists, nearly besting his 2021 totals in just 10 matches. Dom Dwyer is a veteran contributor who has seen a resurgence in 2022.

After not scoring any goals in the 2020 and 2021 seasons, he netted his first early in 2022 and has scored three times in only 234 minutes through his first ten appearances. Only Ronaldo Cisneros and Araujo have outscored Dwyer, as the 31-year-old far outpaces the rest of the team in goals per 90 minutes.

The defensive corps is led by Miles Robinson, George Campbell, Andrew Gutman and Alan Franco, with Gutman and Franco leading the team in tackles and pressures. Brooks Lennon and homegrown talent Caleb Wiley have played minutes on the back line while also contributing on the scoresheet, with Lennon recording two goals and two assists and Wiley netting a goal at only 17 years old. Brad Guzan and Robby Shuttleworth led Atlanta goaltending, each recording seven appearances, until June 19, when Rocco Rios Novo stepped in net for United. Guzan and Shuttleworth allowed nine goals apiece across their minutes, with Guzan leading Atlanta to a 3-2-2 record in seven starts. Shuttleworth fell victim to an anemic offense during some of his appearances, leading to a 1-2-3 mark for him.

Rios Novo was promoted from Atlanta United 2 to give the team a younger option in net, a 20 year old compared to Guzan and Shuttleworth being 37 and 35 respectively.

Rios Novo is 1-0-1 in his first two starts with a clean sheet and only two goals against, lending hope that the goalkeeper position will have stability for a time.

Atlanta is only a few years removed from an MLS Cup win, and while the team makeup is widely different, some of the core pieces remain.

Young talent and veteran pieces combine for a team capable of creating chances, and if United can clean up its play away from home, they can make noise on the back end of the season playing some of the best in the league.