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Did Tata Martino’s stubbornness cost Atlanta United the Supporters’ Shield?

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Winning the Supporters’ Shield is hard, but Tata made it harder than it needed to be 

MLS: New England Revolution at Atlanta United FC Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

I’m going to start by saying: of course what happened on Decision Day wasn’t only Tata Martino’s fault, it was the entire squad and coaching staff. But if Martino gets the praise when things are going well, he needs to take some of the blame after a loss as bad as Sunday’s match against Toronto FC.

I love Tata, and the club wouldn’t be in the position it is without him, but he needs to do better with the talent he has at his disposal. Time and time again we have failed in big matches—especially against the top teams—exposing Tata’s unwillingness to adapt week-to-week.

Tata’s attacking style is awesome when everyone is healthy and in-form, but we haven’t seen that from Atlanta United in quite some time. Why go with aggressive tactics on the road, against the defending champions, on a bad pitch, without Miguel Almiron , AND with the Supporters’ Shield on the line?

I wish he would’ve recognized the magnitude of the match and let go of his preferred “style” and just try to win at all cost like Mourinho’s or Simeone’s teams tend to do in “finals.” When your Plan A is not working, you have to look for other ways to win. I’m not saying Atlanta would’ve won had Tata done something different, but it surely would’ve been better than a 4-1 loss.

Tata’s comments after the loss were more frustrating. He admitted the team hasn’t been playing well for weeks……so as a manager your job is to change that, or at least try. Whether it’s tactics, the personnel, or style, you’ve got to try something, right?

Well no, that’s not who Tata is. He will live and die by the way he thinks football should be played, and good for him, but trophies are nice too.

Now Atlanta must focus on the playoffs. Of course the Five Stripes still have a chance to do well this postseason, but I’m not particularly positive about it at the moment.

Teams that play “attractive” football are usually not built to win a short tournament. The winning manager of the last 3 Champions Leagues, Zinedine Zidane, will never be known as master tactician. But what he did so well in his 3 years at Real Madrid was to read the present situation, adapt, and let his talented team do the rest. He wasn’t the perfect manager, but he was a winner and being tactically flexible gave him a huge advantage in big matches—particularly against purists like Jurgen Klopp, who has lost 6 straight finals. But at least his teams play beautiful football.

Tata’s legacy and influence in Atlanta is undeniable, but if he doesn’t win the MLS Cup, it’s going to be hard not to feel a little disappointed in his tenure. Given how close Atlanta got to winning its first trophy in club history and all the money and time that was invested to acquire the players that got us there, it’d be a real shame if that failure on Sunday is the enduring memory we have of this group.