Atlanta United went all the way across the continent, on short rest, playing a makeshift lineup and came away with a 1-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps. It was as good of a performance as anyone could’ve hoped for under the circumstances as the Five Stripes’ amazing run of form continues. Here’s a few thoughts on a historic win:
Donuts and Mate
With their clean sheet victory in Canada, Atlanta United became the first team in MLS history to win five games in a row while keeping their opponents off the scoresheet. That’s a truly remarkable accomplishment considering what the back line in this game looked like. Brek Shea came back into the lineup and had arguably his best game since the second leg against Herediano. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez moved from his usual left center back spot over to the right side and didn’t miss a beat. Franco Escobar was his usual brilliant self. Enjoy him while you can because teams from all over will be coming after him very soon. Then there’s Florentin Pogba.
Pog-boom or Pog-bust?
While it’s disrespectful to single out any of the defenders in this one because they were all tremendous, we have to talk about Pogba’s full debut. The veteran of Ligue 1 came into the lineup for Miles Robinson of all people, probably the team’s best defender this season. The first noticeable thing about the tall and lanky Pogba is just how good his is with the ball at his feet. He’s calm and composed and most of all can pick out a pass from basically anywhere on the field. He was pinging passes left, right and center and they pretty much all found the mark with great accuracy. On several occasions he helped spring a counter-attack with his distribution.
As the game went on, his physicality and defensive acumen began to show itself. He had several clutch interceptions and proved to be very strong on the ball when under pressure. Unfortunately for Pogba, he’s trying to break into the best back line in the league. How does he get more playing time? Robinson and LGP aren’t going anywhere. Escobar neither. Can he be an option at the left back spot? He’s played there some in his career. It’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility.
Verdict? Very much a Pog-boom for Florentin on his full debut.
Dan Gargan mentioned on the FOX Sports South telecast that it seems that Atlanta United have settled into their new identity. But what is that exactly? You may have fallen in love with the high octane attacking style of Tata Martino, but Atlanta United is very much a defensive team now. Doesn’t matter what was preached at introductory press conferences or what a supposed club ethos may or may not be. Frank de Boer’s team is all about conceding the fewest goals possible and being calculated in the attack.
It may not feel exciting, but this approach is working and is dominant. Atlanta crushed Vancouver in everyone’s favorite statistic, Expected Goals. It doesn’t feel as exciting or fun as seeing Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez flying up and down the field at every opportunity. But, the results lately speak for themselves. People thought De Boer was bringing Total Football with him to Atlanta. Instead he brought Catenaccio. Learn to love it.