A team’s ability to competently switch its shape during the run of play isn’t revolutionary. But the fact that Tata Martino’s side is starting show this capability so early in his tenure as manager is very impressive. It’s one thing for a player to understand a singular role in a system, but it’s much more difficult to pull off something like this. Not only do players need to know multiple roles, but they need to be able to discern which moments during the game trigger these changes. And you need all of your players doing them in unison.
This is probably something the team has been working on for many weeks. Sunday’s game against Portalnd wasn’t the first time we’ve seen Atlanta in a back three, but it’s the first time the team was able to pull it off with balance and fluidity. Check out the pass map from Sunday’s match.
A couple things to note here. The location of the dots are the average positions of the players throughout the time noted at the top of the image. The size of the dot represents the amount of touches that player had. Because Atlanta had so much possession in this particular game, this map is skewed toward what Atlanta’s shape looked like with the ball. Notice how deep Larentowicz is compared to Carlos Carmona, a similarly defensive-minded player. I wrote earlier this season how Carmona would be key to Atlanta United’s success based on this role – little did I know at the time that Larentowicz, or “Larry,” would be filling this position. By looking at the individual passes made by Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Larentowicz, and Parkhurst, we can see that Larentowicz was distributing from just as deep of a position as the center backs. (I’m discounting the passes deep in the corners by LGP and Parkurst since they were mainly from short distribution from Kann’s goal kicks.)
This is exciting stuff (for those of us who have no lives and pay attention to this stuff). As time goes on, this kind of thing will only get better for Atlanta.