1-1 draw shows Atlanta United's grit, MLS playoff updates, & more: Starting Lineup, October 9
by Jason Longshore
1- A great playoff test played out at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday night as Columbus outplayed Atlanta United, but the 5 Stripes found a way to get a result on almost the last touch of the game to earn a 1-1 draw. After the match manager Gonzalo Pineda said, "Sometimes we were not playing probably at our best, but we’re fighting till the end and that’s a signature for a championship team. Those are champion behaviors of never quitting, always fighting till the end even though at times we know the product can be better than us." (photo credit: ATLUTD)
2- Full credit to Columbus who, possibly alongside Orlando, might be playing currently at the highest level in the Eastern Conference. Making a subtle tweak like using Sean Zawadzki as a wing back who tucked in quite often in possession allowed them to keep control of game and dominate the possession. Also full credit to Atlanta who persevered on a night where they didn't control the ball and stayed in the game. Columbus' breakthrough came off of a deflected tackle by Matheus Rossetto that went off Aidan Morris into the path of Cucho Hernandez. But Columbus' overall control of the match from roughly midway in the first half through right before when they scored their goal was impressive.
3- Atlanta turned the game around by being very aggressive with their substitution of Edwin Mosquera into the match for Saba Lobjanidze. Mosquera hits the field like a lightning bolt when he comes off the bench and gives Atlanta United an incredible game-changing weapon. We've seen it consistently since Mosquera arrived last year, but especially over the past two matches. In a game where you're struggling to get control, sometimes the best way to change things up is to be disruptive. Mosquera is absolutely disruptive to opponents' defensive structures. He's unpredictable, as Jay Fortune told us on the Full Time Report, even he doesn't know sometimes what Edwin is going to do. But over these past two games, he's made big things happen. He earned the free kick that Thiago Almada used to pick up his 17th assist of the season on Miles Robinson's header.
4- The draw takes Atlanta out of the running for the top 4 in the Eastern Conference and makes the first round best of three series more difficult. But the manner of the draw and the two games this week shows that this team is one that will be handful for anyone in the East for the entire 180 minutes of the first two games. I said coming into the week that it was a defining week for the team in 2023. Sadly, the controversy of the Philadelphia game makes it a little harder to define things clearly. The results define that Atlanta will have to function as an underdog for the rest of the 2023 season, which kind of suits this team anyway with their fighting spirit.
I'll tell you one thing, you should have learned by now not to leave an Atlanta United match early thinking that they're out of it.
5- The playoff picture is slowly coming into focus in the East. Cincinnati will be #1, Orlando will be #2. Philadelphia is #3 for now on 55 points, Columbus is #4 with 54 points, but New England has two games to play and is #5 on 52 points. Atlanta is #6 on 50 points, but Nashville has two games to play and is 4 points back with 46 points. An Atlanta win in Cincinnati on Decision Day will assure they don't fall to #7 and could move them up to #5, depending on New England's results.
The wild card race is the true liquid chaos. Montreal is #8 on 41 points, DC is #9 right now on 40 points but they drew the bye on Decision Day so they're done. Also, two of teams behind them on tie breakers actually play one another so DC will get passed and Wayne Rooney is leaving town. Charlotte has two games with the now eliminated Miami and if they win, they're into the playoffs for the first time. Buckle up...
6- In the West, St. Louis is guaranteed to be the #1 seed. LAFC will be in the top 4 for sure, they're #2 for now ahead of #3 Seattle by a point and the surging #4 Houston Dynamo by 3 points. Vancouver is #5 and RSL is #6, both are within striking distance of a top 4 spot. Portland is #7 ahead of the wild card #8 San Jose on tie breakers, both are on 43 points. Dallas is in the final wild card spot on 42 points with Kansas City and Minnesota one point out. Austin and the LA Galaxy were eliminated over the weekend.
7- Gabriel Martinelli’s late goal gave Arsenal a 1-0 victory over defending champion Manchester City on Sunday, they had lost 12 straight in league play against Pep Guardiola’s team before the gritty win. Mikel Arteta also announced afterwards that Bukayo Saka would miss out on England's games in the UEFA Nations League due to a hamstring injury.
8- Milan are going to sell Olivier Giroud goalkeeper jerseys after his stint in goal over the weekend. Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan was shown a red card late in stoppage time and Giroud took his place, making a brilliant save to deny George Puscas just before the final whistle to preserve a 1-0 win. He's also now listed with the goalkeepers on the club's website.
9- Welcome to the international break with World Cup qualifiers taking place in South America and Asia, Nations League matches and friendlies in other parts of the world. The fun starts Thursday as Spain hosts Scotland in a critical Nations League match, while Colombia hosts Uruguay and an always spicy encounter between Chile and Peru highlights Thursday's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers.
10- I had a very entertaining match yesterday on ESPN+ as Georgia State's women dominated Arkansas State on the shot count and in possession, but the Red Wolves had big chances as well. The match finished 0-0 with Arkansas State defender Riley Whisenhunt clearing a Bree Barley shot off the line and Panthers' senior goalkeeper Jaddah Foos bravely stuffing Emma Riley on a breakaway.
This week, we'll have big coverage on Tuesday of the oldest men's soccer rivalry in the state of Georgia as Oglethorpe hosts Emory in Brookhaven (pregame and postgame coverage on the SDH Twitch and YouTube channels), I'll be alongside Jessica Charman for a huge SoCon women's match on Thursday as Mercer hosts Samford, and I'll be back at GSU as the Panthers' men host their rivals Georgia Southern on Friday night.
11- One of the most influential songs from one of the most influential artists in rock and roll was recorded on this date in 1958. Eddie Cochran, who tragically passed away two years later in England after a car accident while on tour, began recording "C'mon Everybody" before finishing it the next day. The song has been covered by bands as different as Humble Pie and the Sex Pistols. Enjoy your Song of the Day from Eddie Cochran: