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Atlanta United adjusting for defensive-minded DC United

Tata Martino wants a little more from the attack.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Atlanta United FC Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

It was a frustrating match for Atlanta United last weekend against the Seattle Sounders. Officiating aside, the Five Stripes struggled to break down a Seattle team that was perfectly content on sitting behind the ball and defending for the majority of the match. Tata Martino expressed during his post-match press conference the difficulties of trying to attack against teams like that and how he plans to adapt against other predominantly defensive sides they’ll face in the future.

“It’s difficult to play against a defense that sits so far back and just plays very defensively,” said Martino. “It’s difficult to break that defense down. I thought we did it pretty well at times, especially in the second half, but it’s hard to do. The only thing I would say, and it’s not worrisome, but something we could work on is to have somebody other than Josef Martinez in and around the box who’s able to score goals for us. We need to try to have more guys in goal scoring positions.”

It’s become a bit of a trend for almost every team playing against Atlanta at Mercedes-Benz Stadium to go out of their way to defend more than usual, and the same should probably be expected this upcoming weekend with a D.C. United side that is tied for the third least amount of goals among Eastern Conference teams.

Julian Gressel told reporters on Thursday morning that he’s making the adjustment from being a wingback/winger who’s typically sending crosses into the box to a midfielder who must chase those services from his wingers and fullbacks and finish the chances.

“It’s something that we have to recognize in game situations,” said Gressel. “It’s not really something we can prepare for in training. Even for me, sometimes the ball goes wide and I just have to get into the box to try and throw another number in there to create space for myself or another guy. Whenever the ball goes wide, we need to have two, three, or four guys in the box so we have some options, not just Martinez. We mostly break teams down going wide, so we need to have that awareness to get into the box and try to finish.”

“We do a good job of getting the ball wide and sending it back in,” said Martino. “A lot of the times, we just need someone other than Martinez to be in the box and tap it in. When you do all that other work, it really is a sin to not have someone to tap the ball into the net.”

We’ll see if any glaring changes are made to the positioning of Atlanta players while they’re in the attacking third this Saturday.