Most 0-0 games are boring, but the scoreless draw between Atlanta United and New York Red Bulls Sunday evening was a delight to watch (sans the heart-stopping moments when the ball glanced just beyondBrad Guzan’s goal). Here’s what we learned from the match:
Brad Guzan should’ve started over Tim Howard for the USMNT
Sorry to bring “that game” back up again, but no one who watched these two games would say that Tim Howard is a better goalkeeper than Brad Guzan in current form. Honestly, it was clear before Sunday night. Guzan has been in scintilating form for the Five Stripes since joining the team this summer, but his performance against NYRB shone a bright light on one of Bruce Arena’s many errors managing the national team midweek. Guzan’s performance was magnificent — perhaps his best of the year. If not, it definitely included his best save of the year as he stopped a close-range Bradley Wright-Phillips shot with a strong left hand.
Atlanta missed Miguel Almiron
Since his injury, Atlanta has coped fairly well without the star playmaker. Even in this match, Atlanta was not short for scoring chances. But later in the game, especially once Red Bulls had a moment at half time to regroup tactically, Atlanta’s chances came few and far between as the team’s shape and structure deteriorated due to the pressure applied by the opponent. Atlanta’s midfield was forced deep, and Josef Martinez grew more and more isolated as the game progressed.
With a player like Almiron, these situations become advantageous for Atlanta. Red Bulls Manager Jesse Marsch mentioned in a TV interview going into halftime that his side needed to be careful as they pushed higher up the field to prevent Atlanta counter attacks. Miguel Almiron is especially dangerous because he’s so fast with the ball at his feet that he can carry the ball himself from the edge of our defensive third to the attack. Without him, Atlanta tends to play more long balls over the top to Martinez and Villalba, which are relatively easy to defend for a competent back line. Without Almiron to link Josef Martinez with the rest of the team, Josef dropped deeper and deeper to get involved. According to the average positions from WhoScored, Josef played deeper overall than Carlos Carmona!
Uhh, did Josef's GPS chip fall out of his sportsbra thing at kickoff? pic.twitter.com/X6921WGue7— SB Nation pleb (@japatrick200) October 16, 2017
This was a fun scoreless draw
Us Atlanta fans are pretty spoiled with the large output of goals our team provides, so our frustration when we don’t see one go in the back of the net is understandable. But despite not seeing one go in Sunday, I think most of us more-or-less agreed that it was an entertaining, fun match to watch. You can argue that there should’ve been as many as four or five goals scored, and there was some pretty heoic defending and goalkeeping on display from both sides. In the first half alone, Atlanta had three great opportunites from Asad’s header saved by Robles, Gressel’s long range miss after Robles went on a walkabout, and Tito’s outside-the-boot poke at the end of the first half that just skimmed by the post.
Decision Day is gonna be WILD
The New England Revolution did their best Trinidad and Tobago impersonation (again, sorry!) by beating NYCFC Sunday night. With both Atlanta and NYCFC dropping points, everything is up in the air as far as playoff positions are concerned. Atlanta Could finish anywhere from 2nd-5th, meaning the team could have anything from a bye and home field advantage (which, in a two-legged series, isn’t much of an advantage, but humor me) to a single elimination playoff game on the road. Tata Martino has referred to the first round knockout matches as “cup finals,” and it would realllllllly help my blood pressure if we could avoid such a scenario, especially on the road. Any of NYCFC, Atlanta or Chicago are in contention for the bye, and Columbus will be battling hard to earn a home game for the knockout round. Combine this with the messy situation in the west... well, Decision Day will be a crazy day of soccer.
A rematch in the playoffs would be fun
Though maybe too stressful?NYRB is locked into the sixth seed, so they will face whoever finishes 3rd. Le tme know in the comments who you’d prefer to play in a single-game elimination scenario: NYRB, Chicago, or Columbus.