Atlanta United captured their third straight win (and fourth in their last five matches) with a very solid 2-0 win over Toronto FC on Wednesday night. It wasn’t the most dominant performance, nor the most attractive, but the result never really felt in doubt and the Five Stripes continue their surge up the Eastern conference table. Here are a few thoughts on the win:
A Different Type Of Win
We saw a different Atlanta United in this match. Whether it was by design or just happened naturally, Atlanta didn’t dominate possession in this one and were better off for it. They allowed Toronto to keep the ball a bit and come at them in hopes to hit on the counter. That’s a good thing. Sure, it’s natural to always want to dominate your opponent and enforce your will on the game. But sometimes you can force yourself to be too one dimensional when constantly controlling the play in the attacking end. The ideas can get stale and stagnant.
The possession overall was pretty even on the night but Atlanta still enjoyed plenty of chances to score. On a few occasions it looked like their counter-attacks had turned into goals if not for some late offside flags. I would like to see more of this balance. It’s fine to concede possession, especially when you’re confident in your defense’s ability to handle themselves. Getting more of these chances to counter in open space will only lead to good things in the attacking end.
A Pity Not To Score
This was the best Pity Martinez we’ve seen this season. That’s not to say that this is the best Pity Martinez can play, because it surely isn’t. He still had some unflattering moments, but it was a much better performance from Atlanta’s No. 10. He was unlucky not to score his first goal for the club. He struck two fantastic free kicks. One was well saved and eventually turned into the first goal of the game. The other, a spectacular effort from nearly 30 yards on a tough angle, slammed off the crossbar.
He was lively and looked more confident than we’ve seen him all season. We talked about how much he needed to step up with Ezequiel Barco on international duty and he did tonight. If he keeps this up and continues to get better, the goals and assists are just around the corner. This was a very encouraging performance from Pity.
Keeping It Clean
Atlanta’s defense has been outstanding during their turnaround in form. They’ve only conceded two goals in their last five matches and have kept a clean sheet in all four of their wins during that span. The usual suspects deserve the credit. Miles Robinson’s revelation of a season continues. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez has shaken off a rough start to the season to look like the LGP we know and love. Franco Escobar’s return from injury should not be overlooked either. His influence on the right side of the field is huge. The quality he offers both going forward and defending is invaluable.
The left back spot is still up in the air. Brek Shea continues to struggle and for my money, Michael Parkhurst appears to be the new first-choice left back. With the packed fixture list over the next few weeks, we’ll likely see both play. However, when things settle down, I’d put my money on Frank de Boer leaning heavily on Parkhurst at that spot until someone (Bello? Ambrose?) shows they can handle it.
Bonus Thought: Is Atlanta United back? I don’t know. We’ll find out this weekend. Beat Orlando. That is all.