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MLS Cup Playoff Recap: Atlanta United beats New England

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PLAYOFF FRANCO ESCOBAR

MLS: MLS Cup Playoffs-Round One-New England Revolution at ATLANTA United FC John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

(Playoff) Franco Escobar found the back of the net in the 70th minute as Atlanta United scrapped out their second straight win over the New England Revolution to advance to the second round of the MLS Cup Playoffs.

The things that happened in the game that was played

Let’s be real simple here. In the first half both teams had small chances. Atlanta had better chances. Atlanta did not finish those chances.

And then Atlanta came out of the locker room flat. And then New England nearly scored. And then things really started to get some real 2017 Columbus vibes.

And then...

A rustle in the bushes...

You look around you see nothing...

But then...

Suddenly and without warning...

It’s on you...

It’s...

IT’S.....

PLAYOFF FRANCO ESCOBAR

Escobar has scored three times in playoff games for Atlanta United. He has scored twice in the regular season.

A Playoff Recap Thought: No mercy Or Pity or whatever.

Pity Martinez did not make an appearance today. The subs were Tito, Florentin and Mo Adams. Over the next three potential games, it’s unclear if Pity will be included in any of them. And if the team is winning, it clearly doesn’t matter. But it is interesting at the very least.

Ezequiel Barco may have been the best player on the field today. At least until Playoff Franco kicked in. His ability to carry the ball forward and find space with the ball at his feet is invaluable. He seemed to tire a bit at the end of this one, but any concerns of staying fresh are and should be largely thrown out the window in the playoffs. Tata Martino famously and presciently once said that Josef Martinez could rest when he’s dead on December 10th, two days after MLS Cup. Ezequiel isn’t going anywhere.

Hyndman’s impact is less distinguishable. But Frank de Boer’s buzzword for Hyndman’s contribution for the team is “balance.” Here’s his full quotes on his selections today.

“Well I only have so many positions. And right now I think with the three in the midfield with Emerson, Jeff and Darlington is a good balance. Then I only have one spot left for the position. And that’s Barco or Pity. Now I’m choosing Barco and he’s doing well. For me, I didn’t have reason to change,” de Boer said.

“You can play with Barco and Pity like we did with Minnesota but the discipline and what he does defensively and also to be in our box when he has to defend, that’s the balance that I’m searching for. You can play without players like that but it’s a big risk. And I know that Emerson is very comfortable on the ball and I think he did great with Barco and Darlington and their free play is really comfortable. They play small triangles together and that. I had no reason to change. And in the future, it can change. But right now for me, this is the best balance of the midfield. Again though, I’m looking for the opponent and maybe next time I choose a different midfield.”

The question then is what kind of opponent will they face where Pity’s skills outweigh—in Frank’s mind—the balance that Hyndman brings and Frank seems to covet? My gut tells me that the opponent may not exist.

DSS Man of the Match

Playoff Franco.

He had only been kind of just ok up until that point. But Playoff Franco simply waits for opportunities to strike. All hail Playoff Franco.

(Also Zeke was mostly incredible, but, ya know, gotta stick to the bit.)

Larentowicz Man of the Match (Your Unsung Hero(es))

An entire cast of Larentowicz Men tonight. Including Jeff Larentowicz who did everything you would expect of him. He got into tackles early, recovered the ball, and did general Jeff Larentowicz things that helped set the tone.

Darlington Nagbe had a similarly characteristic game. It’s a joy to watch.

And Michael Parkhurst, thrown into the starting lineup after the Miles Robinson injury, played a stellar game. A late shoulder injury dampened things, but all the credit in the world to a guy in his last few games coming up huge in the biggest game of his year. If that was the last time we see him on the field, it’s a heckuva way to go out. The captain straight up balled.

Quote of the Night

“We’re a team that talks about being a big club and winning things. And when you put yourself in the playoffs with the single-elimination everything is on the line. You’ve got to find a way to get a result and we got it done.” - Brad Guzan

Tweet of the Night

What’s Next?

Winner of Philly and Red Bulls. Here. In Atlanta. October 24. 8 p.m.