Hello Five (Nine?) Stripe faithful and welcome to the Atlanta United Mail Bucket, something that I hope becomes a regular feature here at Dirty South Soccer Dot Com. Each time I open the Mail Bucket, I will attempt to impart all of the soccer wisdom that I have retained from my Sunday League experience, playing FIFA 10 through 19, and watching soccer on TV...which you know... makes me kind of an expert (Bello is a 60 in FIFA so Larry plays left back in my career mode — and I run a 4-3-3).
This thing only works if y’all have questions and BOY DO Y’ALL HAVE QUESTIONS after a 3-0 loss to Monterrey Wednesday night. So thanks to everyone who played along. Without a further adieu [deep breath] let’s open the Bucket.
Looking back, what did you expect out of the first 5 competitive matches in 2019?— eberhartcreative (@Edeberhart) March 7, 2019
Creative question Edward, and a great place to start what may come across as an apologetic theme. I would have hoped for a two wins and three draws by beating Herediano and FC Cincinnati at home and drawing the away games. The realist in me expected to draw Herediano and DC United away — bordering on losing to DC — and lose to Monterrey in Mexico.
Outside of results, I would have expected more teeth to the attack. I would expect an offense somewhere between the 4 goals we had in Kennesaw and the ineptness on display against DC United and Monterrey. Frank de Boer is confident that the chances will come as the season progresses, but I expected more cohesion in attack than what we’ve seen.
I’ve actually expected the defensive gaffs we’ve seen thus far. The 3-4-3 is a change and de Boer’s press is different than Tata Martino’s. I expected growing pains early, but believe we’ll defend better as the season progresses.
Is MLS actively trying to not compete internationally? Straight from preseason to champions league against teams in midseason form. Not to mention our salary cap rules literally handicapping our squads from building the depth we need to compete.— Avery Lane ⭐️ (@av3rylane) March 7, 2019
Actively? No. Indirectly? Maybe. The MLS season does make it hard for teams to win the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL). Herediano and Monterrey are in mid-season form whereas a month ago we were in LA playing against a team full of people younger than Ezekiel Barco. Even if we had Tata, Garza, Miggy, and a healthy Escobar and Gressel, we still would be coming off of a two month hiatus with the smell of Magic City still on us. We can’t compete with the elite teams who have a head start.
The salary cap and archaic roster rules are another issue. I’m sure MLS has good reasons (money, *cough*) for their roster rules and season structure.
MLS isn’t actively trying not to compete internationally, it’s just that priorities lie elsewhere.
Please break down how teams are exploiting @ATLUTD on set pieces and how we might combat that. Thx— Michael Valverde (@ContentMined) March 7, 2019
MIke, I’m sure Josh Bagriansky would have a better analysis on the Mouths of the South Podcast, but I’ll take a stab at it. The DC United goal was quite clever. Josef Martinez was on Paul Arriola. As the cross comes in, Josef jumps to clear, losing Arriola. The ball falls to Lucho Acosta, who bossed Parkhurst, and Acosta gets a pass to the onside Arriola at the left post. Guzan couldn’t cover. Goal.
Maybe we need someone to guard the post. Maybe Parkhurst needs to be more physical. I think it was just a well designed and executed play. That’s going to happen from time to time.
The should-have-been-a-goal in the 11th minute of the Monterrey game was the result of bad marking. Parkhurst didn’t mark anyone and was in no man’s land. Josef marked Nicolás Sánchez which is a 5’7” to 6’2” disadvantage. The free kick was accurate and Sánchez almost made us pay.
As for combatting the set pieces, we’re always going to be susceptible. We’re a short team. We’re shorter without Julian Gressel, Jeff Larentowicz, and Franco Escobar in the box. We have to mark and be physical enough to keep players off their line.
Are the players really buying in to the 3-4-3 scheme and how many more loses before the grumbling kicks in?— Greg Sanders (@sandersgreg) March 7, 2019
I wish I had access to that information, Greg, because I think it would be fascinating to get the players’ thoughts. Even with unlimited player access, I don’t think the guys would be honest if asked. So I have to rely on what I’ve observed through on-field demeanor and body language.
I think Barco is bought in. He seems more motivated and in-sync this year. Eric Remedi and Miles Robinson seem to have bought in, although Robinson’s demeanor could be as much about quality playing time than anything. Parkhurst will be bought in because he’s the consummate “team first” guy, but in his current form, I imagine he’s longing for more help at the back. Who knows where Nagbe’s head is at after the rumors this offseason, but the 3-4-3 really compliments him.
Josef seems frustrated, but we’ve seen that when he’s not scoring bangers in a 5-3-2 or 4-3-3 as well. Pity seems...flat maybe?...but that is probably more about living in a new country, playing for a new team, and still trying to catch up with fitness. LGP? Shea? Gressel? Tito? I just don’t have a feel for their status either way.
Greg, time is a flat circle. We just need more experience in this formation to work on communication and anticipation. I think, with time, we’ll get better in the 3-4-3 and get some wins. Winning solves morale issues.
Inverted fullbacks, killing our width and right side attack or great idea? pic.twitter.com/PJhgXci4Xn— Stefan Turkheimer (@StefanTurk) March 7, 2019
Bonus points for the gif Stefan. With the 3-4-3, I’m thinking your “fullbacks” is what I’d call wingbacks. With that in mind, I really think we need to pump the breaks on jumping to conclusions about our wingback play just yet.
The game in Costa Rica was the first of the year and we were rusty against a team in mid-season form. Even still, Gressel, the RWB, got a goal. Then with Shea and Gressel as wingbacks in Kennesaw, we blasted four by Herediano. “Brek Shea just needed to be on a better team!” “Gressel is going to score so many goals in this formation!”
The lack of attack in the DC and Monterrey games is worrisome, but make no mistake: DC is really, really good and close to our quality. Monterrey is the best team we’ve ever faced in our short history, and it’s not even close. Add that Mikey Ambrose has logged the majority of time in those two games and we’re in trouble Stefan. I love Mikey, but he’s limited whether he’s inverted or not. With that said, do we really have enough data to make any hard conclusions about wingbacks right now?
How does Larentowicz not find a place in the starting 11? One of our most seasoned and steady players— Chris (@ChrisMHoff) March 7, 2019
In the 3-4-3, Larry is either a CB or a CM. At CB, he’s not as good as LGP, Parkhurst, and Robinson right now. At CM, he’s a better defender than Nagbe and Remedi. However, I don’t think he has the possession or link-up quality that is necessary in de Boer’s system to gain minutes over either of them. Right now, he’s odd man out.
When Escobar returns how do you see the team lining up? Can you really sit Gressel?— Random B (@echo_cmd) March 7, 2019
You hit the nail on the head, Random B. Gressel is too good, too proven to sit. When healthy, he’s the starting RWB and rarely subbed. Escobar was a CB with Newell’s Old Boys before coming to Atlanta. I think he takes over the RCB spot and takes Parkhurst’s spot in the starting XI.
Is there a reason that FdB refused to use subs last night? I mean he does know that's allowed right?— GooNeeGooHoo (@GooNeeGooHoo) March 7, 2019
GooNeeGooHoo, I am as stumped as you are. Was he so consumed in the game that he lost track of time? Is he wanting to save Tito and Larry for Sunday? Did he think he could save them for the return leg? Does he think he can trade them for value at The Cookout? GooNeeGooHoo, I have no idea. De Boer’s lack of action here bothers me more than anything. We don’t concede one of those late goals with Tito and Larry on earlier. Plus, with Tito, we always have the chance of him creating something from nothing and getting a goal.
De Boer really messed up here.
If someone has worked for less than 6 months the previous 3 years, and blames everyone but themself.. don’t you think there’s enough red flags to say maybe it’s this particular person and not everyone else?— CW3 (@Cwthree) March 7, 2019
CW3, my dad told me this exact thing when I was 25. De Boer’s successes and failures are well know by United fans so I won’t rehash, but I don’t think de Boer is deflecting blame. Right now, it’s just too early for de Boer to blame anyone, including himself. Excuses are excuses, but this team has had A LOT of changeover since we hoisted the MLS Cup. That was only three months ago. Tata left. Miggy left. We lost Garza due to cap space and brought in Brek Shea. Bello and Barco didn’t get significant time last year during the playoff run and we’re relying on them heavily this year. Gressel is injured. Escobar is injured. Pity isn’t fit yet. MIKEY AMBROSE HAS STARTED HALF OF OUR GAMES.
All of the above has occurred outside of de Boer’s hire, an overhaul of the coaching staff, and installation of a new system. CW3, I’m not saying that your wrong, I’m just saying that you’re early. If we’re still this inept in June, go crazy.
One more question por favor: If we had hired Guillermo Barros Schelotto instead, do you think we would be experiencing better results?— Cliff (@seoulstar_ATL) March 7, 2019
Cliff, Guillermo Barros Schelotto is a fine coach but would bring no more guarantees of success than Frank de Boer. It’s important to know that at Boca Juniors, GBS was managing a team with far more financial capability than his opponents and always fielded the most talented team. I don’t believe he has the pedigree to come in as Tata’s replacement and have a seamless transition.
Sure, GBS’s preferred 4-3-3 would be an easier transition than de Boer’s 3-4-3, but either way we’d still lose to Monterrey and I’m not confident we win in Costa Rica or DC. Maybe we trade the Herediano and DC losses for draws, but with GBS, I don’t think the results of these first four games would be that much better.
As mentioned above, there has been a lot of changeover that has occurred outside of the managerial hire. GBS would still have fitness needs with Pity and (theoretical) injuries to Bello, Escobar, and Gressel. Even Tata would have issues replacing those players in addition to losing Almiron. There’s more to our woes than a coach and a formation.
If we don’t win against Cincinnati and the Union at home is it deBoer out?— wolfie (@wolfeeeeeeeeee) March 7, 2019
Have patience my dear wolfeeeeeeeeee or deboerout. Our coach isn’t going anywhere this year, regardless of result. I still believe he’s a good coach. Let’s give him more than 4 games before we ride him out on a rail.