ATLANTA, Ga. - A late goal from FC Cincinnati’s Roland Lamah cancelled an early strike from Josef Martinez and both teams left Mercedes-Benz Stadium with a point after a 1-1 draw. Cool.
The things that happened in the game that was played
Atlanta started quickly. A gorgeous ball from Julian Gressel and an expertly timed run for Josef out last year’s MVP in on goal. He doesn’t miss. No matter how tight the angle.
Atlanta put a few more shots toward goal the rest of the half but couldn’t replicate the success of their first. Cincy missed a pair of huge opportunities on set pieces but failed to touch the ball in the box during open play. Atlanta outpossessed Cincinatti 70-30 through the first half.
The second half continued in the same fashion. Everything seemed boring but fine until........
Recap Thought: Soccer Ambien, Frustration and More Frustration
So let’s start out by saying that for the most part, this game had “Dunwoody Bingo Tournament” levels of energy at times. There were points where the game, the team and, by extension, the crowd felt — for lack of a better word — sleepy. It’s a new world with a new system and place and while certainly the final product is intended to produce better and more entertaining results, the slowly burgeoning version of the product is inherently going to produce some slow-paced soccer.
Manager Frank de Boer felt that Cincinnati organized themselves well throughout the game but that the Five Stripes carried themselves with more energy in the second half and created better chances. That being said, Atlanta placed one shot of three on target in the second half compared to three shots on target out of seven total in the first half.
When the chances did come, de Boer credited a focus on attacking runs behind the Cincy back line.
“You saw the goal was a run like that from Josef Martinez. In the first half we had a chance from Eric Remedi who makes a run behind the last line. Every time we created a chance we created danger it was from a run past the last line. The second half I think we did better and had more chances,” de Boer said.
Although the runs seemed limited, de Boer hinted at players learning a new system somewhat antithetical to the last as the reason for a lack of excitement.
“Last season we won a lot of times in transitions. Not that we dominated games. A lot of times [last year] it’s transition, and Almiron gets the ball,” de Boer said. “We are now the hunted and we try and make the game. That’s the approach and everybody has to learn from that. And we have to learn quick.”
Quick might be somewhat of understatement. While certainly not the whole stadium, a small chorus of boos rained down on Atlanta United after the final whistle. De Boer said he recognizes that a fan base used to winning will react this way with negative results, but he also noted a grueling schedule and a team playing with intensity as reasons to refrain from expressing too much frustration. (LONG QUOTE INCOMING BUT IT’S IMPORTANT YOU SEE THE ENTIRE THING FOR CONTEXT’S SAKE.)
“[The fans] were a little bit spoiled with the results last season. Everybody expected and that’s also normal. But everybody also saw what happened with Toronto when they played Champions League last season. Out of nothing we were induced to play every three days a game. Now I think in 17 days we play five games. That’s a lot. And we also play Monterrey who is just a very good team. Not a team you think, “Ok you’re going to beat them away.” We were very close to a very good result, 1-0. But we have two setbacks in the last nine minutes [against Monterrey] and now in the last 5 minutes [against Cincinnati]. That’s hard because everyone gave 100% to get a good result,” De Boer said.
“I don’t think it’s fair because everybody worked very hard for it. It’s not that they didn’t give 100%. It was their first chance in 85 minutes and it’s really hard to see a goal like that. Defensively we’re playing well with a back three with Miles and Parky, they played fantastically I think. I think it’s not fair to the team.”
The wear and tear of Champions League mixed with an MLS schedule is certainly in the back of everyone’s minds as poor results trickle in. Even Michael Parkhurst mentioned a commitment to not becoming “Toronto 2.0”. There’s two sides to this though. One being that de Boer and company admittedly haven't had time to implement their system the way they’ve wanted to.
“That’s the main problem right now. We did of course have a week off we were quite good and it was satisfying. Every three days we play again. You cannot do much. You can’t really play 11 against 11, there is no time to recover every time. That’s the problem,” de Boer said.
On the other side of that argument has been a lack of turnover in de Boer’s lineup. There will be different schools of thought on whether he should or shouldn’t be rotating more, but he did explain his reasons for not rotating tonight.
“This is the first home game. You want to be as strong as possible. There’s almost 73,000 people in the stadium and we had a loss of course in the first game against D.C. so you want a good result,” de Boer said. “You think maybe you might do some rotation but for me the most important thing and getting a boost to the next game. Sometimes you have to risk those things. A home game, everyone wants to see Gonzalo. That’s normal. That’s why we put him in.”
Whatever the reason for the struggles, the mood in the locker indicated that a change — whatever change that might be — needed to come quickly, even if that meant a collective “Come to Jesus” meeting.
“Listen at this point, defending, attacking, the whole thing. We need to regroup and go back to the drawing board and figure this out,” Brad Guzan said. “There’s a lot of games to be played. It’s our second game of the season. We can’t let this be our defining moment. It’s a chance to have real conversations among ourselves as professionals, as competitors, as athletes. [Those conversations will entail] some honest truths. At the moment we aren’t good enough.”
While much of the focus with the team’s struggles have been focused on De Boer’s tactics, Guzan believes that, to a man, the team hasn’t played to their standards.
“You can talk about systems, you can talk about formations, you can talk about whatever but at the end of the days it’s 11 guys competing against another 11 and more times than not this year we haven’t been good enough.”
DSS Man of the Match
Miles. Gordon. Robinson.
As much as the fan base may be grumbling about the form of most Atlanta United players to start off 2019, Robinson has clearly taken a leap forward. In the first truly significant playing time of his career, he’s been the best defender on the field in nearly every game. He won about 300 duels today and did a stunning job of tracking back and cutting off a few ball played in behind the back line. The only one he didn’t get to was the last one.
Miles receiving regular time may be the most exciting part of the de Boer era so far.
Larentowicz Man of the Match - (Your unsung hero(es))
The Atlanta United crowd for giving Greg Garza a standing ovation. I love and miss him and the crowd did him right.
And also for sitting through that.
Quote of the Night
Whoo boy y’all see that big long quote up there? I encourage you to watch the video of the press conference to get a better idea of his tone when saying it and further context, but that is the full quote. Take what you want from it.
Tweet of the Night
Atlanta mostly on the front foot so far.— Dirty South Soccer (@DirtySouthSoc) March 10, 2019
Definitely feels like a game where Cincy grabs something stupid from nowhere though
Check the time stamp. I’m a genius.
Atlanta returns to MBS on Wednesday to try to mount a miraculous comeback against Monterrey in the CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinals. The Five Stripes fell 3-0 to Rayados in the first leg of the tie. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.