Atlanta United picked up their first win in MLS this season with a convincing 2-0 win over the New England Revolution in Foxboro on Saturday night. After four games of disappointing performances and results, it all finally came together for the Five Stripes as they dominated play and should’ve scored many more goals than they did. Here are a few thoughts on a fun and relieving night:
Keeping It Simple
After what seemed like a new formation and mindset every match, it appears that Frank de Boer has decided to stick with the simple and boring 4-3-3. The formation pretty much everyone in the world uses. So mundane and boring that it seems to have sparked life into the lifeless. Perhaps it was the comfort of a familiar look or just all the extra training sessions the team has been able to work on things, but the attack finally clicked in this match.
There were no tricks. No overthinking the tactics. It was simple and highly effective. Josef Martinez up top. Two wingers beside him. Three midfielders. Four defenders. The personnel may have been a bit strange (Barco starting on the bench, Parkhurst at right back), but it was clear to see that everyone just looked like they understood what they were supposed to be doing for the first time in a while.
Atlanta created chance after chance. A barrage of attacking threats that usually ended with an opportunity on goal. In the end, they managed 19 total shots, 12 of which came from inside the penalty area, something they struggled mightily with before this game. While this isn’t officially accurate, it wouldn’t surprise me if they created more quality chances in this one match than they did in the four previous league matches combined. It was that noticeable.
It wasn’t anything flashy either. The defenders got it to the midfield. The midfielders found runners in behind to the wing or gave it to Josef to hold up and do the same. It seemed like they were ripping New England’s defense apart nearly every few minutes.
For some weird reason, Ezequiel Barco began the match on the bench but was forced into the match early after Eric Remedi suffered a concussion. As he’s done virtually all season, he provided a much-needed spark and notched both of the team’s goals. We’ve talked about it a lot since February. He showed up to preseason looking like a different player. Someone hungry to prove his talent and he’s doing just that. Hopefully we start to see more extraordinary performances like this from him more consistently.
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) April 14, 2019
An absolute beauty from Barco pic.twitter.com/C5nV79XQ9u
Now, let’s talk about THAT goal. Oh my lord. That is what we’ve been waiting to see for over a year. We all knew he had quality but we’ve wanted to see that instinct for a special moment. Finally, he showed the confidence to take a chance to shoot from somewhere you wouldn’t necessarily expect him to shoot from and it paid off. A spectacular curling shot that felt like a year’s worth of pent-up expectations exploding into the net. More of this, please, sir.
Josef’s Frustratingly Good Night
Josef Martinez had a very weird performance in this one. He missed several good chances to score and was clearly angry with himself or at the world for doing so. However, he was still extremely influential in the team’s win as a provider. It’s no secret that strikers in De Boer’s systems usually are more playmaker than goalscorer, but Josef has never really fit that mold. But he did just that in this one. He held up play when needed, played several great passes into key areas to either create chances himself of help others create.
We’re so used to Josef having the attacking spotlight on him and being the guy the team relies heavily on. That probably won’t change this season, but it’s great to see him have the well-rounded skills to provide other avenues of productivity. He may not score 30 goals this season. But, if he can consistently make an impact in other ways when he’s not the one banging the goals in, he’ll be just as valuable as he’s always been.
The Other Side
Obviously the big talking point coming out of this match will be how good Atlanta’s attack looked and rightfully so. However, we need to give props to the defense too. Michael Parkhurst didn’t look out of position at right back. Miles Robinson put on another top performance. LGP was a rock and a leader. Brek Shea had a very good game as well. It wasn’t a perfect defensive effort, but it was more than adequate. Here are your props, fellas.
It Must Be Said
It pains me to do this, but we must pour a little rain on all this sunshine. Firstly, let’s take this great performance for what it was. It was an encouraging win against a very bad team. For all the excuses that were used for why the last four games happened the way they did, we shouldn’t get too high on this win. It’s great to see the team finally looking like their old selves a bit. Let’s just hope this is the start of a norm we can expect and not an outlier.
Lastly, but way more importantly, the concussion protocol in world soccer (or lack thereof) reared its ugly head once again. Eric Remedi went down just 10 seconds into the match after getting hit in the head. He went off for treatment and came back on quickly. Just 10 minutes later, he went down again and had to be subbed off with what was eventually diagnosed as a concussion.
This is just completely unacceptable in this day and age and something has to be done about it. FIFA, MLS, or whoever needs to act and make sure stuff like this doesn’t happen. Whether that’s implementing a temporary sub policy or something else, it has to be done and done now.
I’m not in the camp that will take to social media and claim that someone “obviously has a concussion” any time they’re hit in the head. It is possible to get cut or something else. But nine times out of 10, it’s usually a concussion. It shouldn’t take a player to virtually sub themselves off. He or she shouldn’t be allowed in the decision-making process. Teams, leagues and federations have to find a solution to this problem before something truly tragic happens.