Atlanta United’s disappointing start to the 2019 season continued on Sunday night with another 1-1 draw at home to a team they probably should be beating. The Five Stripes fell behind early in the second half, but substitute Ezequiel Barco rescued a point about 20 minutes from full-time. Here are a few thoughts on the match:
Once again Frank de Boer decided to experiment with the team’s shape and tactics. However, unlike against Monterrey, the changes didn’t have the desired effect. If you need an example of just how confusing and weird the team’s shape was in the first half there’s this: The game began with Eric Remedi lined up as a wide left midfielder in a 3-4-3 diamond and the first half ended with Michael Parkhust playing as left back in a back four formation.
There were at least three different changes in shape during the match and there very well may have been more, but it was all too confusing to identify. The players appeared to be just as confused because once again they failed to muster much of anything in the first half. Only one good chance to score, a Josef Martinez sliding shot off the crossbar, would be created by the hosts. And again the team didn’t manage a shot on goal until the 63rd minute. Their second and final effort on target was Barco’s equalizer in the 70th.
De Boer has gone from being stubbornly rigid in his tactics to throwing everything at the wall and hoping something sticks. At least he’s trying something?
An Earned Reward
Let’s give some credit to Barco, shall we? You know it’s been a rough start to the season when the team is struggling and very few are complaining about Barco. Last season he was a popular scapegoat for when things weren’t going well. But this preseason he showed up looking like a new player. One that was motivated to prove all the doubters wrong and hungry to show why Atlanta United paid the fee they did for him.
After a stellar preseason, he started the season proper with a few up and down performances, but the effort was still there. Finally, against the Union that new mindset led to tangible results. Barco came off the bench and was an immediate spark plug. The youngster scored just three minutes after coming on for Tito Villalba with a lovely floated header that gave Andre Blake no chance. Well done, Ezequiel. Keep doing what you’re doing.
And Now They Rest ... Well, Most of Them
The grueling opening of this season has finally come to an end. After 114 games in 20 days (don’t fact check that), the majority of the squad can now take a breather and rest. The international break is usually nothing more than a hindrance during the season, but now it’s a welcome rest period.
Tito Villalba, Josef Martinez, and Pity Martinez (and Andrew Carleton and maybe Miles Robinson) will be off on international duty, but the rest of the squad can take some much-need time to recuperate. Frank de Boer can finally have a chance to really analyze the problems so far and hopefully improve in those areas.
Echo, echo, echo
I think I’ve done this in nearly every post-match musings post this season, but shoutout to Miles Robinson again. It cannot be said enough how well he is playing right now. He is clearly the most talented defender the team has to offer and amazingly the most reliable one too now. If this is now the norm we can expect from him instead of a fluky hot streak, what a career he has ahead of him. He may be getting called up to the U.S. U-23’s soon. If he keeps up this form, it won’t be long until the senior national team comes calling.