Rekrap: Oddly enough winning came with an existential crisis
I said in the Prekrap last week that either it would work or it wouldn’t. Well the team won, so was I right, did it work? Or is the answer more complicated and the win less a sign of an effective process than one in which the outcome was not dependent on the careful two weeks of preparation that went into the match.
At this point DSS has reviewed what happened in the game pretty extensively. I welcome you to read Rob, John, Josh, and Payson talk about the game. Basically, Barco didn’t start - he scored two goals and the plan in this game was for him to watch until Frank de Boer decided that it was time for him to come in based on whatever was happening in the match. Remedi’s injury forced his hand, the gameplan changed and the one that the team had to adjust to ended up winning the day. Had Remedi stayed in who knows if Atlanta would have won - New England was pretty bad in the game and except for a flurry of crosses the team didn’t offer much going forward and was incapable of defending very well as shown by Atlanta’s 3.29xg.
Still, Barco came on and Atlanta grasped the concepts that they’d been working on all week so maybe the process did work, maybe it didn’t, maybe FdB has backed into something that he’ll do from now on and whether or not he deserves credit for it... if it works who cares? I’m worried... but maybe I shouldn’t be?
Soccer is hard.
FC Fake ID: Dallas is playing the kids
Speaking of things going better than they should have, FC Dallas is coming off of a win against the Portland Timbers in which VAR again worked perfectly because its an infallible system that is solving all of soccer’s problems:
That play was in fact reviewed and it was decided that Matt Hedges did not handle the ball - despite the fact that it touched his hand and and it looked like he waved his hand at it. Still, let’s give the official some credit, given the way that Hedges usually is out of place defensively and consistently prone to gaffes, he may have figured that intent is not something the center back is capable of.
Dallas would win that game 2-1 against the winless Timbers. In part, that’s thanks to the play of their yoots. The FC Dallas youth system has long been touted and is paying dividends all over the starting lineup. Goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez, right back Reggie Cannon, attacking midfielder Paxton Pomykal, and striker Jesus Ferreira are forming a young core that the team should be able to build around for years - or at least sell for a tidy profit. Defensive midfielder Bryan Acosta has been out the last two weeks, but 18 year-old Edwin Cerrillo has filled in fairly well.
Still, Dallas isn’t perfect. In particular, the defense seems to give up preventable goals every week. Gonzalez is good but isn’t quite going to compete to start for the USMNT just yet and the aforementioned Hedges is as likely to be spectacular as he is to looking totally out of place on a soccer field. The team will make mistakes and it will be up to Atlanta to make them pay when that happens.
Prekrap: Are we going to find out what we’re doing soon?
The puzzling thing about writing previews is that in truth, I have no idea what is going to happen in a game. Nobody does, but that randomness is what makes sports fun. I can get injury reports, review training notes, discuss things with people who know more about tactics than me on DSS and still - I would have never guessed that A. Ezequiel Barco would be benched last week - and B. That he would score two goals and bring up all these weird questions that I have about what exactly Frank de Boer is doing and if he actually means to do it.
Under Tata Martino it was more or less easier - the team would attack, press sometimes, try to force mistakes and then strike with speed in transition with the aim of getting Josef Martinez a hat trick. Maybe we’d see a 3-5-2ish thing, maybe a 4-2-3-1, we’d talk about Chris McCann.
With de Boer we’re seeing something different. Josef Martinez is playing further back from goal and was more of a facilitator against New England. He did that and still had five shots in the game and is actually on pace for a similar number of tries as he had last year. De Boer had a mostly healthy, first choice squad for one game that was played in a natural disaster and the problems Atlanta had in CCL have been well documented. From that, we have some ideas of what FdB will be able to do with the team... but not the full picture. Is that going to involve Barco, Josef, Tito, Pity, and Gressel on the field at the same time? Will he again choose to go with tactics that include playing Eric Remedi, or another defensive midfielder, over Ezequiel Barco - who now leads the team in goals this year - once more?
Perhaps with Remedi out, Barco may start... again it’s puzzling.
Atlanta United: Endgame
You all know what’s going to happen in Endgame right? They’re just going to go back and undo everything that was done in Infinity War but take three hours to do it probably using an unsatisfying cop-out while setting up yet another Avengers or 20 spinoff movies because our culture has run out of original stories to tell so all we’re left with are Star Wars reboots and superhero movies about characters that were created 50 or 80 years ago.
Movies are hard.
I’m not saying that Atlanta United is like a movie where the entirety of the plot is advanced by dudes yelling the word PLAN at each other for two and a half hours with 30 minutes of CGI that comes along to make it seem like something good and enjoyable happened, but I am filled with doubt and dread even though I’m confident that the team can get a result.
This is real life, not a movie...
Unless the starting lineup has a disappearing teenager like Infinity War did, this should be a great match and one that will say a lot not only about how the team may fare as the schedule gets somewhat nightmarish soon but will also tell us about the result in New England. FC Dallas is a strong team, they are far from great and aren’t without pretty significant problems that Atlanta should be able to exploit at home.
So, after all that here is a familiar refrain: either the tactics will keep coming together and Atlanta United will possibly win its second game in a row - and have a chance to climb all the way to 6th place in the standings with two games in hand on most of the rest of the conference - or they won’t... Or something completely unpredictable will happen.