Atlanta United's 3-0 romp over Honduran side Motagua to see them advance to the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals and a potential Campeones Cup rematch with Club America was everything Five Stripes fans could have asked for and more.
Not only did Frank de Boer get everything right, but every Atlanta United player on the pitch looked like they knew exactly what the plan was and how to execute it.
Motagua put zero (0) shots on target and a few moments of brilliance from the Martinez’s were more than enough to get Atlanta to the next round and also keep everyone watching entertained in a way they often struggled to last season.
To put in simple, southern terms: That was a thumping.
Josef and Pity: Individuals in a partnership
It’s not quite Miggy and Josef in all its Dragonball Z reenacting, bromantic glory. But it was pretty darn fun Tuesday night.
We’ll go chronologically if you don’t mind.
It was a gorgeous explosion of flicks and sprints into the box that gave the Five Stripes the lead. From the top, Josef Martinez hangs out for a bit in Zone 14 while Pity Martinez floats into space, of which there is very, very much. The first pass from Franco Escobar could have gone to either Pity or Emerson Hyndman and they each would have had a few seconds to ponder their existence before making a move.
But Pity thinks extremely quickly as one of Motagua’s three center backs moves up and the play takes off from there.
A play of such quality in fact, that the broadcast felt the need to compare it to one of the world’s greatest teams.
It’s a stunning connection. And it wasn’t the last we’d see from the pair. Which, like, duh, that’s why we’re writing about it.
On the next goal, it's Josef who does the brunt of the work. He pushes the loose ball back to his teammate and immediately takes off. He knows where the ball is going before Pity does.
Seriously, watch it (below). Pity gets the ball, takes a second, realizes if he doesn’t hit the through ball Josef is going to drive his car into a lake, and then delivers an inch-perfect pass derived from the beautiful pairing of fear and talent. After that, all Josef had to do was Josef things.
Ok, the last one didn’t quite have the grace of the first two. But hey, Josef kind of deserves an assist here, right?
Pity and Josef weren’t often on the same page last year. They were always reading the same book at least, but almost never more than that. But it felt close. If that connection continues to blossom during the regular season, the ceiling for Frank de Boer’s team gets absurdly high.
Josef and Pity: Partners who retain their individuality
Josef had to change things up last season. FdB asks his No. 9’s to play a different style than Tata Martino and there were moments when Josef would struggle or Josef would get it right and his teammates would struggle and it was immensely frustrating for him and for fans to watch. He still scored 27 goals. King gonna king.
But the challenge of dropping deeper and connecting with flicks and one-two's with his teammates evaded him a bit. I’m on record as saying his hold-up play is underrated, but I don’t think it’s unfair to say things didn’t quite come off as much as De Boer or Josef would have liked.
Fast forward to tonight and Josef seemed very comfortable coming back and pinging entry passes back to or into the path of teammates. The first goal is practically a platonic ideal of that. Continuing to build on that skillset might be what really unlocks this Josef and Pity partnership.
Speaking of Pity, all I really have to add is [ahem] SHOOTERS. SHOOT. (but please shoot closer.)
After skying a few from distance, Pity found his way into the box and put a shot on frame. You’ve gotta respect the ability to shake off the misses and find the goal eventually, but it’d be nice for the folks in Atlanta if he didn’t have to shake off so many near-certain misses.
Dude absolutely balled tonight. Exciting times for El Pity in Atlanta may be on the way.
EDITOR'S NOTE: J. Sam Jones is a soccer writer and columnist and regular contributor to DirtySouthSoccer.com. You can listen to him stumble through discussions about Atlanta United on the Dirty South Soccer podcast network and follow him @J_SamJones if you don’t mind occasional ALL CAPS YELLING about American Football and Pitchfork reviews.