Inside Opta: Martino's Atlanta United playing fast and furious to kick off life in MLS

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Goal takes an analytical look at Week 2 of the MLS season, including Atlanta United's thrashing of Minnesota, Anibal Godoy's dominance and more.

In hiring Gerardo "Tata" Martino as the club's first coach, the Atlanta United brass envisioned a fast and furious philosophy. With two MLS matches under his belt, the former Barcelona boss has delivered just that.

WATCH: Atlanta thrashes MNUFC in the snow

The approach sure was fun to watch in Atlanta's debut against the New York Red Bulls, even if some late shortcomings led to a 2-1 defeat. Between the electric Bobby Dodd Stadium atmosphere and hungry collection of young attackers, United's high-octane style fit the occasion.

But on the road in the Minneapolis cold? Less ideal — or so we thought. As snowfall draped TCF Bank Stadium, it was Atlanta that looked right at home.

Atlanta United vs. Minnesota

Atlanta's average position against Minnesota on Sunday

Finding the gaps in Minnesota's leaky back line, striker Josef Martinez notched a hat trick. Playing underneath Martinez but regularly floating to the left side, Miguel Almiron was a handful while recording two goals and an assist.

In execution, Martino's 4-2-3-1 formation looked more like a 4-1-4-1. Defensive midfielder Jeff Larentowicz shielded the back line, but the quartet of Hector Villalba, Julian Gressel, Almiron and Yamil Asad stayed high as Atlanta looked to win the ball in dangerous spots and commit numbers to the attack. (Fullbacks Greg Garza and Tyrone Mears got forward with vigor as well.)

It's a small sample size, but Atlanta sits near the bottom of MLS with 69 percent passing accuracy. This is a team perfectly content to take chances, turn the ball over and promptly win it back. Although we've all seen the creative qualities Almiron brings, he's also valuable when it comes to buzzing around loose balls — in fact, he's seventh in MLS with 20 recoveries.

Sunday's snow-smothered result should be taken with a grain of salt, considering Minnesota has the potential for a historically inept campaign. That said, don't be surprised if Atlanta is the first expansion team to make the playoffs since the Seattle Sounders in 2009.


Godoy off to dominant start


Anibal Godoy vs. Whitecaps

Anibal Godoy's passes against Vancouver on Saturday

When healthy and available, Anibal Godoy has quietly been one of the most effective defensive midfielders in MLS since joining the San Jose Earthquakes in August 2015. Over the opening two weeks of the 2017 season, he's taken it up a notch and simply been the best player in MLS.

The obvious thing first: Having entered the season with three MLS goals to his name, Godoy has scored a pair of world-class winners to put San Jose on six points. After converting a clever chip in the 1-0 triumph over Montreal, he curled home a long-range stunner to cap a 3-2 victory against Vancouver on Saturday.

WATCH: Godoy scores another golazo

Couple those goals with middling all-around performances and Godoy would still be a stud for San Jose. Yet the Panama international also leads the league with 159 passes completed at 92 percent accuracy, spraying balls all over the field. He also tops MLS with 29 duels won, sits second among field players with 27 recoveries and has drawn the second-most fouls (11) in the league.

Godoy even finds himself near the top of metrics a D-mid has no business dominating. Only New York City FC striker David Villa and Real Salt Lake playmaker Albert Rusnak have created more scoring chances than Godoy's six. And the 27-year-old is tied with Montreal Impact star Ignacio Piatti for the MLS lead with nine dribbles completed.

Now Godoy's Earthquakes did play 67 minutes against 10 men Saturday after Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted saw red, so the numbers come with a slight caveat. But the eye test tells the same story: This slick-passing, ball-winning, golazo-scoring midfielder can be elite.


Quick kicks


— Dax McCarty has been excellent for the Chicago Fire, but he's not the only reason they're off to a strong start. Chicago has conceded just one goal in two games with a back line comprised of holdovers from 2016, when the Fire were second-to-last in goals allowed. Center backs Johan Kappelhof and Joao Meira have been particularly immense: They are 1-2 in MLS with 28 and 20 clearances, respectively.

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— The Philadelphia Union's new midfield duo of Haris Medunjanin and Derrick Jones has looked sharp to kick off 2016. With a 6-foot-3 frame and impressive range, Jones is fourth in MLS with 19 duels won. The more cerebral Medunjanin sits seventh with 20 recoveries while also offering clean distribution. When the Union have two central midfielders who complement each other well, it opens up opportunities for Chris Pontius, Alejandro Bedoya and Fabian Herbers to create.

— A lot of attention has rightfully been heaped on the Houston Dynamo's attacking trident of Romell Quioto, Erick Torres and Alberth Elis, but give credit to coach Wilmer Cabrera for unlocking the right combination in midfield as well. Brazilian maestro Alex has never looked more comfortable than he does now, with Ricardo Clark alongside him and a resurgent Eric Alexander as the deep-lying playmaker.

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