Atlanta United celebrated their MLS home opener by continuing a miserable run of form with an embarrassing 1-1 draw against the newest team in the league, FC Cincinnati. The Five Stripes took an early lead and controlled 67% possession on the night, but gave up a late equalizer after failing to create many threatening chances. Here are a few thoughts on the night.
Atlanta United love their marketing slogans. First it was “Unite and Conquer” then “Five Stripes Don’t Stop”. Upon the arrival of Frank de Boer, one phrase was constantly repeated about the transition from Tata Martino to the Dutchman: “Evolution, not revolution.”
Evolution is defined as “the process by which different kinds of living organisms are thought to have developed and diversified from earlier forms during the history of the earth.” In simple terms, Evolution is supposed to take the original form of something and transform it into something better.
So far, the de Boer era has been the complete opposite of that. The club’s mantra for the last three years was to be the most exciting team in MLS; something different. In this new regime, excitement has been murdered and replaced with a completely different style that could act as a natural form of Ambien.
Possession does not equal dominance. Having the ball and being dangerous with it are two very different things. Last year’s team was a boa constrictor waiting to strike at any moment. This year’s iteration has devolved into more of a bullfrog patiently eating the occasional fly.
"attacking" is a generous adjective. It's like someone put a mower engine in my Corvette.— maupinjo (@maupinjo) March 10, 2019
King of Frustration
I’ve never seen Josef Martinez as frustrated as he was in this game and this was before the team even conceded the equalizer. Imagine that for a second. A game in which they are leading 1-0 and Josef has scored in and he’s visibly upset with nearly every mistake made by the team. Any time someone turned the ball over you could see his shoulders slump and him staring up at the MBS roof.
His obvious unrest is symbolic of how we all feel. Even up 1-0 it never felt like the team were on the same page or understood what they were trying to accomplish. It’s a worrying trend to see your best and most important player that frustrated even when you’re winning.
On An Island With No Boat or Pity
One reason for Josef’s frustration likely stems from how isolated he is in the attack. Both Pity Martinez and Ezequiel Barco again were non-factors in this one. Both players don’t seem to be any threat to score when aligned to their natural foot winger spots (Pity on the left, Barco on the right). This puts all the emphasis on Josef to be the focal point and gives him very little support in the attack.
Neither winger has been able to make things happen from wide spots. They aren’t beating defenders and the majority of their service is either wayward or blocked. De Boer has tried inverting both of them to no avail. It’s another worrying sign of a sputtering and incohesive attack.
Getting past all the doom and gloom, it’s important to put a spotlight on the few encouraging things we saw. There’s been nothing more encouraging so far this season than the emergence of Miles Robinson. The soon-to-be 22-year-old (March 14) has arguably been the most consistent performer during this opening five-game stretch of the season.
He’s always had the athletic gifts, but he’s improved his mental game and composure under pressure this season. His improvement has been a welcome one for this team. Robinson’s comeuppance makes for an interesting lineup situation. What happens when Franco Escobar returns from injury? Could Michael Parkhurst be sent to the bench? It doesn’t seem out of the question with the way things are going.
Stay Classy, Atlanta
It may not be a great sign that the loudest moment of the night was when the opposing team substituted their left back on. However, when that left back helped your team win a championship, it’s more than acceptable. Well done to everyone who gave Greg Garza that rousing ovation when he came on.
Something I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life. Thank you! Thank you God for providing these special moments in my life! I am forever grateful! Speechless, simply breathtaking. ♥️ #volumeon #blessed @fccincinnati @ATLUTD @MBStadium pic.twitter.com/rLzelgE9Df— Gregory Garza (@gmgarza4) March 11, 2019
Also, well done to those that boo’d a terrible performance. Some will get on their high horse and say it’s a “bad look” to boo your own team. I say hogwash. I applaud everyone who recognized how bad and unacceptable of a performance this was. It’s important to be honest and the fans were well within their rights to make sure they let everyone know that it’s not good enough right now.