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Prekrap: Atlanta United vs. Colorado Rapids - In a glass cage of emotion

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It’s just like Endgame, but with more yelling about Plans

MLS: FC Dallas at Atlanta United FC Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Rekrap: Lies, damn lies, statistics, and the scoreline

Let’s get started, I have no time for a pithy, sarcastic summary of the last game. Today we’re going to talk about stats and takes - er, analysis.

Stats:

Just think, I used to spray paint all over these - but now I have more respect for numbers.

On the left side, one team pretty much dominates - on the right another team held on.

Takes:

Matt Doyle, MLSSoccer.com Analyst (the Atlanta video is no. 2 in this chain):

Huh? Pressing triggers? Zone 14? Inbetween spaces? Zone of uncertainty? Game state? Yes, without Miguel Almiron running himself to death every week and Brek Shea playing left back for some reason still and Leandro Gonzalez-Pirez leaving his feet when he really had no reason to and didn’t have the defensive cover behind him to dive in like that, the press won’t look like it did last year, but that goal really seems to be on LGP - not the zipcode someone should maybe step into. Doyle’s full column has a longer distillation of the game saying Atlanta relied on individual talent in which he crystallizes with this: “My point: Desperately trying to claw back into a game you’ve already lost, reliant upon raw talent and numbers to reverse weekly deficits is not a viable long-term strategy. This is what NYCFC found out down the stretch in 2018.” Still, that’s one play - and it was a bad one and set the tone for the match, but I don’t think it tells the story of the game or is in any way what the team did or its strategy in 2019.

Again - look at the box score. Josef Martinez had five shots, he’s not a player who is relying on individual talent to do that, the rest of the team is trying to feed him the ball so he can do what he does - like this in the 16th minute:

Another way of looking at this game is that Atlanta had ideas for trying to break down Dallas. There were individual moments where Ezequiel Barco tried to score a hat trick on one shot, but when you have 71% possession it’s probably not absurd to see if you can force a defender to make a mistake one v. one - especially when you are coming off of a brilliant two goal effort on the road. Dallas started time wasting in the 35th minute, someone faked a head injury and wouldn’t go off for treatment, Jesse Gonzalez got a yellow for it in the 74th, and Atlanta couldn’t get a goal before Dallas exploited a tired backline that had been chasing the game for 80 minutes is another way of looking at things also.

Taylor Twellman, broadcaster, analyst and guy who watched the entire 90 minutes + injury time Saturday:

Got that? All teams have to do is plan to score on Atlanta in the 6th minute, bunker for the rest of the game, give up 22 shots including 8 on goal, with two shots hitting the post and have their keeper stand on his head the entire afternoon while making 36 defensive clearances. That was Dallas’ plan. PLAN. P-L-A-N. Should be no problem for every team in the league to beat Atlanta if they do that for the rest of the season.

It is legitimately difficult to understand why FdB is wrong here. If a team is bunkering nearly the whole game all you can do is try to break them down - Atlanta largely did that but didn’t get a result so is Taylor right, or does the scoreline just validate what he’s saying?

@DeBoerMustGo: Some anonymous twitter account that is having a normal one

WHERE TO EVEN START WITH @DEBOERMUSTGO...

As for the first two... Was this Atlanta being unlucky or... Dallas getting lucky? Dallas making the most of their chances and Atlanta failing to do that themselves? Both, neither? Should we just blame this on the Dread God? What about Dallas, didn’t they rely on a brilliant individual performance from Gonzalez in goal? Is that sustainable for them, should Luchi Gonzalez be happy with how his team played? Are there clear Answers for why Atlanta lost, or just things that happened in a game that statistically could have gone very differently? Was anything other than the scoreline really that different between how Atlanta played in New England and how they played against Dallas?

As an objective, disinterested observer who isn’t invested in the results and is here purely for academic reasons and because I can write long indulgent, narrative driven previews and run on sentences, these are fairly puzzling statements by good and entertaining soccer watchers, writers, and talkers. But things are usually one way or another because winning is all that matters in America and even though soccer can end in a tie, the W is all that counts.

I’m sure my points are pretty easy to pick apart and debate also. But there is one thing that objectively does matter, Atlanta United is sitting in last place in the East with five points and hasn’t won a home game. The points have to start coming and they have to start soon or this will become a lost season.

Bless your hearts, bless mine too I guess.

Colorado is terrible

Here is what you need to know about the Colorado Rapids: they are the worst team in MLS. They have a goal difference of -11, have scored 12 goals in eight games while giving up 23 and are on pace to give up (dusts off Master’s degree from Georgia Tech, fires up r, writes code, models entire season) 97.75 goals this year. Meanwhile, they have Tim Howard eating a designated player slot and a roster worse than what Minnesota United would have fielded two years ago. They just lost 4-1 to the Chicago Fire - a team that is also terrible.

For the most part, their game plan seems to be - kick the ball toward Kei Kamara and hope he scores 100 goals this year. I expect them to play a lot of route one this game, but if they score in the 6th minute, bunker for 80 and Tim Howard plays like he isn’t nearly 40 years old and well past the time he should have retired, maybe they have a chance.

I’m not worried

I begrudgingly gave Matt Doyle credit above - Atlanta is bad at pressing. That’s a problem and if Brek Shea is going to play as a left back it will probably keep being a problem. Perhaps also a week to work on the pressing triggers may help. It shouldn’t matter this week, Colorado is terrible. They don’t have the players who can build from the back, have passing vision in midfield and do the kinds of things Dallas or DC United or even Kenny Saief can do. They have what’s left of Benny Feilhaber, who is playing as a second striker mostly along with Kei Kamara, and Kellyn Acosta, who was subbed at the half last weekend, doesn’t seem to be the answer for the team - though he is a good player on his day.

If Atlanta creates 22 shots with 8 on goal, they probably won’t lose this game 2-1 at least. Looking at what happened last week, the team looked pretty good actually. Michael Parkhurst did some interesting things as a right back as far as driving into the center of the midfield to help with possession and is settling in at that role. He might be a little unsure in the attack, but he’s a steady defender and if Frank de Boer is so inclined, putting Franco Escobar on the left might be a good option given what Brek Shea (BREK. SHEA.) offers in that role. Going forward, Pity Martinez played for 25 minutes on Saturday and if he’s game fit, the attack at least will feature all three designated players and we should see what the team can do with all that money and talent on the field at the same time against the worst team in the league.

Where is Marshall McLuhan when you need him?

It turns out that I was right in this section last week. Atlanta United isn’t the Avengers, it’s a work of philosophy that people don’t understand but think their insights have a great deal of validity about. Atlanta United is like when you’re standing in a movie line and someone behind you is going on and on about Marshall McLuhan and you know they’re wrong but why engage because the conversation isn’t really about McLuhan, right? But he’s not there to walk up to them and tell them that even though they teach a class at Columbia about the subject they philosophize about, they know nothing of his work.

I wonder if Tata Martino ever heard of any of these MLS analysts.

Tata is gone Marshall McLuhan is dead

And Atlanta’s playoff hopes may be joining them soon if they don’t start winning some of their 13 remaining home games. Colorado is terrible, Atlanta should beat them - it’s that simple.

Soccer is easy.