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5 thoughts on a frustrating night as Atlanta United loses to New York Red Bulls

VAR, Bradley Wright-Phillips and a red card doom Atlanta United

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Atlanta United FC Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Thoughts are with Kemar Lawrence for a full and speedy recovery

New York Red Bulls left back Kemar Lawrence went down with an injury midway through the second half and laid motionless on his stomach for about nine minutes. After an inconspicuous play, he was stretchered out of the stadium to local hospital for observation. Red Bulls manager Jesse Marsch, who was seen appearing to talk to Lawrence as the defender was on the stretcher and getting wheeled into the tunnel, said after the match is that things may have been better than they appeared.

”We’re getting word that we’re hopeful that everything’s going to be alright,” Marsch added. “I think it’s precautionary.

The club released this statement last night. There’s still no official word to say whether Lawrence has regained full range of motion in his extremities.

All the best to him and I hope he has a full and speedy recovery.

VAR is making the game worse for fans

Mark Geiger was once again the story of the game, as he tends to be in Mercedes-Benz Stadium these days. Atlanta United players and manager all clearly knew he was in charge in the VAR booth on the night, and made many thinly-veiled remarks about their opinion of him and of the calls he reviewed that went against the Five Stripes. Michael Parkhurst told media after the match that referee Chris Penso chose to look at a replay that ended up revoking a Josef Martinez goal, but decided not to use VAR for a desicion to give NYRB a penalty after what appeared to be a very soft fould in the box by Miles Robinson on Bradley Wright-Phillips.

“I said you had a clear view of it the first time and you didn’t call it, so it couldn’t have been too clear,” Parkhurst said about the first VAR incident that denied Martinez. “He said he second-guessed himself and didn’t call it and that it was clear on the replay. On the second one, he said it was a clear takedown, and didn’t need to see a replay.”

Leandro Gonzalez Pirez’s quotes were a little harsher and less censored.

“The Josef goal? What did he say,” said Gonzalez Pirez, who also called for suspensions for the referees involved. “It’s stupid. It’s stupid. Because Parker runs to one side and Josef runs to the other side? He says foul. This is a foul? This is real? This is stupid. The referee every week, every single week, the same.”

Regardless of how these calls affected the game, there’s a larger issue at play here when it comes to VAR. Is it killing the excitement of the game? Is it used so frequently and to determine such negligible physical contact that it’s becoming the story over the game itself? That’s the issue. Sunday night’s matchup was one of very high quality against two of MLS’s best, but that’s not what people will talk about because that wasn’t the biggest story of the game. It was the officiating.

This train is not going to stop. VAR will continue to dominate storylines, but that’s not what’s most important here. The most important aspect of VAR is how it toys with human emotion. It leaves fans feeling empty and foolish for celebrating a goal. This is the problem. The game is meant for the fans, but it’s becoming more and more academic every passing week.

Last summer, we wrote about how we thought VAR would play out and I hate to say that this os playing out quicker than even I expected. I figured this feeling would snowball for years, not a few months.

Don’t celebrate. Don’t even think about it. Celebrating would be bad karma at a time like this. Even though the ball has crossed the line and the linesman’s flag is down and nothing has been called, we haven’t scored yet. No, we have to wait. We have to wait for the VAR official in the press box to tell us whether we can celebrate or not. Welcome to the future.

Atlanta United needs to figure out defense for New England without LGP, Garza

Gonzalez Pirez picked up his 5th yellow card of the season, meaning he will serve a one game suspension (and be fined a laughable $250) when the Five Stripes head to New England in 9 days. Greg Garza will also miss the match after being given a red card Sunday night. Tata Martino will need to figure out how to configure his back line. Chris McCann will almost surely see his way back into the starting lineup at either LB or CB. Martino could opt to play him at LB and Miles Robinson and/or Franco Escobar (he’s expected to be fit) at CB given the formation.

Tito Villalba needs to be on the field more

Villalba came into the game at a time when Atlanta needed a spark, and he gave them just that, he was dynamic and looking a threat to get in behind Lawrence down Atlanta’s right flank before the game was thrown into disarray. Garza was sent off only 7 minutes after Tito’s substitution on, and the delay to deal with Lawrence’s injury cause another long disruption in the match. Villalba looked much more of a threat down the right than Julian Gressel did at any point in the match -- no doubt aided by the formation shift that pushed Tito further forward than Gressel had been playing. Tito needs to be on the field more. The team is simply more dynamic going forward when he’s in the game, and he opens up space and opportunities for the rest of Atlanta’s dynamic attacking force.

These things happen. Everything will be ok.

Fortunately for Atlanta, MLS is set up to allow for games like this. In the most competitive leagues in the world, top-of-the-table matches carry tons of significance toward the end-of-season standings. But in a league like MLS, where teams are fighting to win a playoff tournament at the end of the season, consistency is king. After two consecutive home losses, Atlanta will undoubtedly need to get the ship back in course in quick order, but Sunday’s result doesn’t change the ambitions or the trajectory of this team going forward.