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5 Thoughts: Atlanta United pulls out a miracle in San Jose

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Quite simply, inexplicable

MLS: Atlanta United FC at San Jose Earthquakes Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

What a glorious win to pull out of your butt

Like... what. What the hell was that? None of us have seen anything like what we saw in Atlanta United’s 4-3 win over the San Jose Earthquakes.

This game had so many outlandish moments: San Jose absolutely shredding Atlanta’s defense, Tito’s goal of the year, the VARquake, and a last-minute winner among them. And with all of this craziness was happening around 1 A.M. Thursday morning, I ‘m not even sure how to accurately describe the BIG moods going on. Delirium.

Ezequiel Barco, for all his flaws, is part of Atlanta’s best XI

Tata Martino did something Wednesday that we don’t often see from him—a halftime sub. Atlanta looked exasperated for ideas in the final third. Early in the game, the Five Stripes created a decent amount of chances thanks to San Jose’s inability to deal with Atlanta’s press. But once San Jose figured it out, Atlanta wasn’t gifted anything in the final third. Without Barco, Atlanta’s forays into the box were quite direct and ham-fisted.

With Barco in the game, everything changed for Atlanta’s attack. Martino’s men possessed the ball in dangerous areas much better, and thus, pinned San Jose deeper. Overall he helped the team create the chances it needed to win the game.

All this said, Barco leaves a lot to be desired defensively, and part of the tactical struggle is to maintain the best possible offensive and defensive balance. Perhaps playing Barco centrally, where he has fewer long distances to cover and more defensive support around him, is a better option.

Atlanta loses it’s tactical balance too easily under adversity

Despite the zany, hilarious, unmitigated glee brimming for Atlanta United fans’ hearts and tweets in the moments after the game, it was the level-headed Tata Martino who provided a sober outlook on the match. In the true fashion of El Profe, Martino gave this take on the wild and crazy finish: “We can’t lose sight of all of the errors we made tonight and how we got into that situation in the first place.”

Atlanta has a tendency when it goes down a goal—especially early in matches—to overcompensate in an effort to get the game back in its control. This ultra-aggressive approach is unwarranted so early in games. Two games ago, we saw a similar overreaction in Washington D.C., and DC United, like the Quakes Wednesday night, punished Atlanta with simple, direct play.

Atlanta sets road wins record, points record next?

With it’s 10th road win of the season Atlanta set a new mark for road wins in the non-shootout era of MLS (post-2000) and still has two left to play. Amazing. Better yet though, the total points record, set by Toronto last season, is well within reach. If Atlanta holds serve and wins it’s remaining home games (against beatable opponents, mind you), they will tie at worst. Atlanta still as an obviously difficult matchup remaining away to New York Red Bulls, but the rest are winnable. Toronto, the other remaining road opponent likely won’t have anything to play for when Atlanta goes there on the last day of the regular season.

Who needs drugs when you have last-minute winners in life?

There are certain moments in this sport that is what us fans live for. There were one or two points in Wednesday’s match where we saw declarations of bedtime as Atlanta saw its deficit grow. Then, after everything that happened that we’ve already discussed, there was about a moment—lasting no more than one second—that gives us life. In desperate moments, Miguel Almiron floats a cross. Hope is born. You see Josef Martinez standing in the box. Hope grows. You see the ball clear the near post defender dipping toward a leaping Josef. You lose your breath. The ball connects solidly with his forehead and sails goalward. In those moments, everything stops and nothing matters except the ball. It’s a completely mesmerizing experience—that one second. When the ball hits the net, the emotional release is like, well, drugs*. And it’s addicting as well.

*Don’t do drugs. Just do soccer.