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Atlanta United, Houston Dynamo, Real Salt Lake — American Soccer Analysis

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Defensive Reinforcements

The team’s defensive woes can be partially explained by underperformance from Miles Robinson—now departing for Cincinnati—and Brad Guzan—whose shot-stopping capability has fallen off a cliff—both of whom were returning from season-ending Achilles injuries in 2022. To fortify the defense, Garth has gone out and acquired goalkeeper Josh Cohen, CBs Stian Gregersen and Derrick Williams, and defensive midfielders Bartosz Slisz and Dax McCarty.

Aside from Robinson, the club bids farewell to a quintet of midfielders—Mattheus Rossetto, Franco Ibarra, Santiago Sosa, Amar Sejdic, and Ozzie Alonso. And the departure of Luiz Araujo midseason should (hopefully?) mark the end of Atlanta’s Brazilian jogo bonito experiment.

With the departure of experienced players, Atlanta will be looking to rely on contributions of young talents like Tyler Wolff, who arguably already “made the leap” last season. Edwin Mosquera—aka the short Colombian Darwin Nunez—should also provide depth on the wing. Additionally, emerging prospects Jay Fortune, Noah Cobb, and Nick Firmino should be poised to step up during international breaks and injury crises.

In Almada We Trust

This preview has yet to mention Thiago Almada and Giorgios Giakoumakis (herein referred to as GG, for my spellcheck’s sake). This is because these players are probably too good for MLS.

GG is a #9 that any manager who loves crossing the ball would dream of, which is actually kind of funny that he finds himself in such a possession-oriented team. Either way, his ability to score a random header is much appreciated, even if his on-ball touch is not the best.

Almada is a classic #10 who you really cannot ask much more of. He is vital for his quality both in open-play and set pieces. (Some are calling him the Argentinian James Ward-Prowse for his set-piece brilliance.) His creativity on the ball has the potential to be rewarded even more this year with reliable midfield support behind him in Tristan Muyumba and (hypothetically) Bartosz Slisz–sorry, Mattheus Rossetto.

The real question will be how good can Atlanta be once Almada leaves in the summer (and/or ever gets injured for a significant amount of time). Fans probably would not have been optimistic about this team’s chances last year without him. But with what Garth has built this year, they can have more confidence that the support system can step up, even if the team has been very reliant on him in the past.

Wil-ey or Won’t He (Step Up)?

Caleb Wiley emerges as a pivotal figure for Atlanta United. I’d go so far as to say that he is the player most closely tied to Atlanta’s floor and ceiling, aside from GG and Almada. Wiley’s lack of a direct backup—aside from a less-than-ideal alternative in Ronald Hernandez—underscores his critical role. While his performances mostly pass the eye test, his g+ wheel suggests that he was quite a ways below average last year, although he’s still very young and has plenty of time to improve. That his short comings are somewhat uniformly spread cross the g+ categories is a good thing, he is close to an average fullback (which at 18 is great!), but things like interrupting can be heavily impacted by a penalty given away



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North Carolina Courage’s Brianna Pinto embracing new role in 2024 – Equalizer Soccer

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Gotham FC's Delanie Sheehan battles for a ball with North Carolina Courage's Brianna Pinto


Photo Copyright Rob Kinnan for USA TODAY Sports

CARY, N.C. — When the North Carolina Courage lined up for their opening match of the 2024 National Women’s Soccer League season, an interesting name filled the central striker’s role at kickoff: Brianna Pinto.

The 23-year-old had previously been a midfielder while a member of the Courage, albeit a versatile player who had been used in both defensive and attacking roles. But with North Carolina’s leading scorer from 2023 Kerolin sidelined with a torn ACL for the time being, as well as head coach Sean Nahas having a surplus of midfielders and a track history of playing players in various roles on the field, Pinto got the call as the No. 9, a move that paid immediate dividends.

Pinto drew a penalty to open the scoring in the season opener, a 5-1 romp over the Houston Dash, and notched her second start of the season back at WakeMed Soccer Park on March 30, with her first goal of 2024 in a gritty 1-0 win over Gotham FC.

“I think just being in a new role is obviously a learning moment. But I love playing the No. 9 just because I’m close to goal and there’s nothing more special than getting to score,” Pinto told reporters in the postgame press conference after the win over Gotham.

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Star in the making – Equalizer Soccer

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Emeri Adames stands with her arms folded and a massive smile on her face. She is posing in front of gold drapery in the Reign's dark blue home kit with gold accents.


Photo Copyright Jane Gershovich for Seattle Reign FC

SEATTLE — As calendars turned to December, Emeri Adames was graduating high school and preparing for life playing college soccer at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The Dallas, Texas, native was not planning on going pro. She had committed to a Tarheels program that is consistently one of the best in the nation as one of the nation’s top recruits.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Seattle Reign came calling. Discussions began in late December and an invite to preseason soon followed. Adames still wasn’t set on going pro but, time training with the Reign changed everything.

“It was definitely a really hard decision. I have so much respect for UNC coaches, and I have such a good connection with them still, I talked to them. But it was just mainly this team,” Adames told The Equalizer.

It has been Adames’ goal ever since she was young to go pro but she didn’t think it would happen so soon.

“It wasn’t like I was just trying to go pro just to go pro,” Adames said. “I found my place and I found a great team that would support me and the staff that really wanted me to grow as a player and I saw their visions for me. And so I talked to my family and we had a lot of conversations and that’s what led me to this decision.”

The Reign were just as excited to sign Adames as she was to join the team. Speaking after Adames’ NWSL debut, in the regular season opener, head coach Laura Harvey admitted that “honestly, within two days [of preseason] I was like ‘we need to sign this kid, she is special.’”

Harvey was almost gleeful talking about Adames, forewarning media “You wait, this kid’s unbelievable.”

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What to keep and what to change from the SheBelieves Cup – Equalizer Soccer

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The USWNT celebrates winning the SheBelieves Cup


Photo Copyright The Columbus Dispatch

On Tuesday night, the United States won its seventh SheBelieves Cup in nine years. This victory was secured in thrilling fashion – a full-time draw led to penalty kicks and featured goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher not only saving shots but also burying one of her own. But, as the post-match excitement died down, fans and followers immediately honed in on the predictable follow-up question to an international tournament: what could this mean for the Olympics? 

In short, a lot! This tournament saw some predictably solid play from Olympic roster shoo-ins like Lindsay Horan, whose abilities to consistently generate plays, draw fouls, and score goals looked as reliable as ever. Mallory Swanson returned from injury to the international stage for the first time in a year and has never looked faster or more eager for a goal. And joining her up front were Jaedyn Shaw and Sophia Smith, who more than earned their keep with goals throughout the tournament. 

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