In a 4-1 win, the biggest play of the match may have been a Brad Guzan save to keep the score 1-0 in favor of Montreal. As well as Montreal was defending, a goal there may have sealed the victory for the Impact, and solidified Atlanta United’s first loss in Mercedes Benz Stadium this season.
“Montreal had a chance to score the second goal, but Brad saved it. So, now looking back on the game, it’s easy to say that everything turned out wonderful - the substitutions, the goals we scored - but the part of the match that could’ve changed the game we don’t talk about,” Martino said after the match.
“The one-on-one that Brad saves gives us a chance in the match. After that is when we took over.”
Up to that point, Atlanta United pumped cross after cross into the box, seemingly looking for the head or foot of Atlanta teammates or costly mistakes from the Impact. It took a while, but that first mistake came in the form of a Chris Duvall handball in the penalty box after a ball into Chris McCann from Martinez.
“We just thought we have to put in crosses, create chances, have to push forward all the time, not giving them a break,” said Kevin Kratz after the match.
“Because of the volume of all the chances, we were pretty sure one ball would go in and it happened. Then the free kick helped. Afterwards, it was a little more open.”
Martino said the solution to breaking Montreal today wasn’t necessarily to cross more, but to cross more continuously. Bombard them with pressure.
“I think that with teams that bunker and deny you space, obviously scoring first is the ideal. When you find those space sometimes what you need to find in your opponent is disorder,” Martino said.
And how do you find disorder in a team that’s playing ten in your attacking third? Martino added that in the first half, Atlanta circulated the ball slowly but their attacks were too spaced out. He wanted more a continuous mixture of pressure - crosses, balls down the wing. That was what Atlanta needed in the first half.
“And then there’s set pieces, of course,” Martino added.
To Montreal’s credit, Martino stated this is the first time he’s seen team within MLS play so organized and tight defensively, which naturally made Atlanta United’s job so difficult in the first half.
Atlanta United next face off against the Chicago Fire Saturday, May 5 at 8:30 PM. Hopefully, disorder in the final third isn’t necessary.