Make no mistake, this is a valuable point
Yes, Tata Martino told TV and print reporters after the Saturday’s 1-1 draw at NYCFC that Atlanta United “did not deserve” a result in the match. The quotes are another story, but the bottom line is that the team is traveling home with an enormously important point. Considering that NYCFC took the same result home after these teams met earlier this season, it’s important that Atlanta didn’t lose ground to one of its primary competitors for the Supporters’ Shield and CONCACAF Champions League qualification. If we are considering the home fixture “points dropped,” then this result has to be “points gained,” especially when you consider the manner in which Atlanta earned the draw. It... wasn’t pretty.
Julian Gressel’s has the ability to provide world class service from the right
This is of course old news, but his assist for Josef Martinez’ league-leading 13th goal was a blunt reminder of just how cultured this man’s right foot is. I hesitate to even categorize the ball as a “cross.” That seems such a disrespectful descriptor for something of this beauty. A ball like this really is Beckham-esque.
Tata Martino should consider playing Gressel further up the field
Tata Martino, to my surprise, deployed Atlanta United in a 3-5-2 formation once again, and once again the team gave up a large majority of possession while failing to deny good chances to NYCFC. It’s one thing if you choose to play defensively to limit a team’s chances and force them to take low-percentage shots from outside the box, but NYCFC unlocked Atlanta’s defense time and time again in the second half. In the instances when the Five Stripes were able to recover the ball, there were no forward passing options except to Martinez, who was busy being harassed by two of the league’s best center backs.
The problems seemed obvious, and the reason it puzzles me so much is that changing the shape with these 11 players is not just theoretically possible, it’s pretty much a natural fit. By playing Gressel as a winger, he still stretches the pitch wide —and if anything would give you more going forward. But the real reason the team needs to make the switch is so they can get out of their own half and apply pressure to the opposition back line. Currently, opposing fullbacks almost always have time and space because no one is close enough to press them when the ball turns over. Let’s not forget, the team did this incredibly well last season. Gressel excelled on the right wing, Miguel Almiron served as the midfield link to Josef, and Ezequiel Barco is surely an attacking upgrade over Yamil Asad. Even though Barco gives you less defensive work, make no mistake —it’s his natural position where he played at Independiente.
Will Atlanta battle injuries to key players again?
Maybe more important than the result Saturday was the status of Miguel Almiron, who was substituted at halftime after sustaining a shoulder injury as he fell to the ground early in the match. Almiron finished the half, but never looked comfortable and held his shoulder awkwardly for the duration of his appearance. Fortunately, he made sure to ease out of challenges to ensure he didn’t go to ground and fall on it again. Shoulder injuries are notoriously pesky as Atlanta United fans have seen first hand with Greg Garza. Hopefully he will recover, but it’s hard to imagine he plays before the team returns home in the league to face the Portland Timbers.
Michael Parkhurst also received treatment on the pitch late in the match, and its unknown if he sustained an injury that will leave his availability in question.
Au revior Patrick Viera
You were good for NYCFC and for the league, but thank you for leaving. :)