“Everything’s bigger in Texas.” is the motto that gets repeated ad nauseam in pop culture or advertising or just ironically by random people. However, it was the huge playing surface inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium that gave FC Dallas fits in Atlanta United’s 3-0 win on Sunday.
It was blatantly obvious 10 minutes into the first-ever match inside the brand new stadium that the 115x75 field was a perfect match for Tata Martino’s high-octane pressing style. Even when FC Dallas felt the immense pressure and made a concerted effort to stay compact defensively, they had no answer for Atlanta’s skill players cutting in from the flanks and switching the point of attack:
This was the story for the full 90 minutes where the Five Stripes arguably put up their most impressive and complete performance of the season. This is a debatable opinion, but one that Tata Martino subscribes to.
“We still have the support of the fans who came from Bobby Dodd (Stadium) and we were able to win what was -- in my opinion -- our best game of the season.”
— Tata Martino; Source: Official ATLUTD Quote Sheet
This is not to say that Atlanta didn’t play well on Bobby Dodd Stadium’s smaller (110x70) field, but their matches there were inconsistent. The high press would work in the first half in some games then fall off. Or the team would get off to slow start only for a strong second half to save them. We haven’t seen a complete 90-minute performance like we did against Dallas.
When asked to describe the MBS field, Greg Garza, who scored his second goal of the season to cap the three-goal performance, simply said it was “ginormous” and that it’s very different from Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Garza on the field size: "It's ginormous."— Dirty South Soccer (@DirtySouthSoc) September 10, 2017
Space was plentiful, the turf played as well as expected and Atlanta’s exciting Designated Players and company were as sharp as they’ve been all season. All these factored culminated in some truly beautiful soccer. If they had been more clinical in front of goal, this match could’ve been a disastrous scoreline for Dallas.
Whether it was Yamil Asad, Greg Garza and Miguel Almiron combining on the left flank, Tito Villalba’s surging runs on the right, or Carlos Carmona’s distribution from deep midfield, it felt like every piece of this Atlanta United roster was specifically put in place for the spacious Mercedes-Benz Stadium field.
It’s not the time to overreact to one game. With nine games left in the season (seven at home) it’s more than okay to be optimistic about how Atlanta’s attack looked at home on the big playing surface. It’s hard not to be. But one game is a very small sample size. What will happen in a midweek game when the adrenaline may not be as high or the atmosphere may not be as boisterous? That will be the true test of how effective the attack can be on a consistent basis.
One big worry heading into this final 10-game stretch was the team’s inability to break down teams. We saw this in Kansas City, D.C. and Philadelphia. The signs are positive that Tata’s style is perfectly suited for the extra space. After a few more matches, hopefully we’ll have some concrete evidence that’s the case.