Atlanta United cruised into the CCL quarter-finals on Tuesday night with a 3-0 win over Motagua. Here are three things we learned from the Five Stripes’ victory.
Atlanta United advanced to the CONCACAF Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday night with a 3-0 win over Honduran club Motagua, winning 4-1 on aggregate after a 1-1 draw in Honduras last week. Gonzalo ‘Pity’ Martinez, who was selected for the tournament’s Best XI after the first week, scored two goals and assisted the third, which was scored by Josef Martinez.
Frank de Boer lined Atlanta up in a 3-4-2-1 formation, a change from last week’s 4-3-3. This variance resulted from Jake Mulraney’s ability to play in the U.S. (Visa issues restrict Mulraney to playing stateside for now), as well as Brooks Lennon’s fitness. Lennon picked up a knock before last week’s match, forcing him to start on the bench in the away leg.
Atlanta looked much more familiar with a back three as opposed to playing with a back four in Honduras. The Five Stripes held on well enough for a draw, but the performance never looked very comfortable. Tuesday night’s outing in Kennesaw was much more convincing.
Here are three things learned from Tuesday night’s 3-0 win over Motagua.
3. A strong start from Pity
After struggling through most of the 2019 season, Gonzalo ‘Pity’ Martinez finally appears to have settled in Atlanta and with this club. Through just 174 minutes in 2020, Martinez has two goals and two assists. In 2019, it took Martinez 1287 minutes to reach that mark.
Martinez’s link-up play with teammates Josef Martinez and Ezequiel Barco looked good throughout the match. This is even more impressive when considering that Atlanta United are basically still in preseason mode. Once all three players are in form and find their match fitness, expect even more production from these talented players. For now though, Pity is leading the way.
Martinez entered the 2019 season with a lot of expectations. He was fresh off winning both the Copa Libertadores with River Plate and the South American Player of the Year award. On top of that, his reported $17M transfer fee was and still is an MLS record for an incoming transfer. He spent most of 2019 playing at an average clip and did nothing to help his case, including poor body language on the pitch and critical comments toward his new coach.
After a full year in the U.S. and full adjustment to both a new club and new coach, it seems Pity is beginning to find his stride. A month ago it seemed a stretch to look at Pity as a possible MLS MVP in 2020. After 174 minutes, that may not be such a stretch after all.