There’s something about Minnesota that seems to bring the best out of Atlanta United. Maybe it’s the weather. But while last year brought out Atlanta skill and attacking ruthlessness, Saturday nights game brought out the best of Atlanta’s tenacity and mental fortitude. Here are some thoughts from the 1-0 win.
Leandro Gonzalez Pirez is struggling on the road
Two road games, and two poor performances for the MLS Best XI defender from last season. I don’t think people doubt LGP’s potential or his peak performance, but he does seem to have some consistency issue playing on the road. Personally, I’m most concerned with his play in the first 5 minutes of road games, where he doesn’t lok to be quite sure of himself and even falls asleep and is slow to react. That’s exactly what cause his first booking Saturday night — not 60 seconds into the game. It wouldn’t be easy to play 90 minutes without getting booked, but when you’re a defender and pick up a card that early, the opposition is going to go after you. We obviously know how this ended for LGP Saturday.
Chris McCann and Michael Parkhurst were legends
After the sending off, McCann and Parkhurst formed the the central defensive pairing and served as the heartbeat of the team for the duration. Atlanta was under pressure for most of the game, holding the ball at a paltry 29% possession rate. If you think that stat’s crazy, listen to this: Minnesota attempted 50, count em, 50 crosses. Fifty. Crosses. McCann and Parkhurst were central to defending most of those crosses, and you have to give them massive amounts of credit. Is McCann a decent center back?He certainly seems like a better center back option than Jeff Larentowicz.
We CONCACAF’d our way to victory
Yes, Atlanta United defended well and put in the hard running, the tough tackling and determined heading to get the job done. But Atlanta managed the matched with the savviness of a veteran team. Championship teams win games like these when they don’t play their best. And in order to get these wins, you have to win the physical game but also the mental game. You have to make things difficult on a psychological level, and Atlanta’s time wasting efforts did that. It’s not poor sportsmanship, it’s game management. Guzan took a yellow card for time wasting because that’s what the team needed. Some players may have gone down easy or embellished some injuries, but isn’t it funny that most teams that do that happen to be very good?
Atlanta is in for an even bigger lineup shakeup against LAFC
Literally anything could happen, tactically. LGP will be out and it looks like Jeff Larentowicz will be as well (though this is purely based on the amount of pain he seemed to be in upon leaving the game). However, we could see Barco and Franco Escobar return. All of these circumstances offer a plethora of possible lineups and tactical setups for next week’s game. Will Tata move to a 4-2-3-1? WHo will replace Jeff Larentowicz in midfield? Lots of things to keep up with this week.
Is this Atlanta’s best win ever?
Fox Sports South commentator (and all-around good guy) Kevin Egan brought this point up after the game, positing that this was Atlanta’s most impressive win in its short history. There’s defeinitely something to be said for the team holding up they way they did and surviving the match. Not only did the Five Stripes play most of the match down a man, Atlanta also lost a key cog in Jeff Larentowicz and were already playing with a short bench. This is as much adversity as the team has faced — at least in a tactical sense -- and they pulled through. Egan is right that wins like these are more impressive than the lopsided scorelines where the team wins by significant margins, I think I’d still rank Orlando away as a better win last season. What do y’all think?