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MLS Cup Playoff Recap: Atlanta United - 2, Philadelphia - 0

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Gresselmania and The King running wild

MLS: MLS Cup Playoffs-Semifinals-Philadelphia Union at Atlanta United FC Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta, Ga. - Julian Gressel opened the scoring and Josef Martinez closed the game as Atlanta United cruised to a 2-0 win and their second straight Eastern Conference Final.

The things that happened in the game that was played

So Pity started.

And that worked rather well.

Julian Gressel also started. Which also worked rather well. He gets the first goal.

And then after 70 minutes or so of being very happy to be patient with a one goal lead, Gressel found Josef in behind. The King called game.

A Recap Thought: FdB refuses to eat nuts in his own house.

Tata Martino said last year that making an error in the playoffs is like eating nuts in your own house. The implication being that nuts are messy, and you should probably not mess up your own house.

So far, FdB has set up the team in a way that makes it difficult to even open the bag of nuts. Or something. The main point is that so far in the second half of his tenure, when it matters most, Frank de Boer has gotten everything right. Tonight that meant including both Pity and Barco in the lineup, as well as playing a back four with Mikey Ambrose at left back.

This “Leeroy Jenkins” lineup—as it got affectionately named by the DSS staff prior to game—wasn’t quite as Leeroy Jenkins as we initially made it out to be. That’s In large part because the opening goal from Gressel allowed Atlanta to stay back and control the tempo and pace of the game. A successful decision to push for the early goal meant that the rest of the way could be about limiting mistakes. From there it turned into a waiting game. Atlanta just needed to hold out until Philadelphia couldn’t. It’s easy to do things like that when everyone is playing at a high level.

“I think we were a little bit more secure with our passing in the second half but also I think that our opponent gets more tired and they have to run more behind the ball,” de Boer said. “The only thing I said at halftime was that defensively, great job. We were very disciplined. With Pity and Barco, especially for them it’s a different thing that they’re normally used to and I think they did really well.”

The inclusion of Pity and (especially) Ambrose surprised people. But with a depleted back line and a Philadelphia team itching to press, it worked perfectly. Frank described the lineup decision in a very coach-speak way, but I think it’s important to note.

“I choose the players who have the most chance to win this game. That doesn’t mean it’s always the best players but it’s more the best team. This tonight in my point of view was the best team,” he said.

De Boer had a bit of swagger to him tonight in the press conference. He seems more confident and comfortable. It’s an answer he may have given at the beginning of the year but with a lot more stuttering and awkward pauses. And clearly it’s because everything is clicking. And it’s clicking for FdB and this team because Frank has figured out what Tata figured out: It’s all about not eating nuts in your own house.

DSS Man of the Match

Gressel. He’s got a much deserved pay day coming. I hope it’s from Atlanta.

That’s not to discredit Pity, who played one of his best games in the stripes. Dude balled.

Actually let’s just go ahead and give this very coveted award to both of them.

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

Jeffrey. Adam. Larentowicz.

As Joe Patrick likes to say, he’s just a warm blanket back there. Keeping him in the midfield tonight instead of dropping him to center back worked perfectly. And it allowed Frank to play the system he wanted with Barco and Pity. The protection Jeff offered made the selection of a back four with Mikey Ambrose at fullback an easy one.

“Jeff is crucial right now in the midfield. He’s winning those doo-ells for us,” de Boer said. “That gives you so much more release for the defense. That’s why I have no doubts and directly made up my mind that I’m going to play with Mikey.”

Tweet of the Night

What’s Next?

Toronto. 8 p.m. October 30. Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta, Georgia. Winner goes to MLS Cup.