Atlanta United went on the road and lost again. This time it was the Seattle Sounders who took all three points from the Five Stripes. Here are some thoughts on another frustrating day of soccer:
Obligatory Listing Of Excuses
Let’s get this out of the way so we can start talking about actual soccer. Too many matches in too short of a span. Commercial flights. Injuries to key players. Exhaustion. One bad yellow card given? I’m sure there are more excuses but I can’t be bother to think of them. Please comment below and tell me which ones I’ve omitted. Thanks.
You Want It To Be One Way, But It’s The Other Way
I think I speak for the majority of the Atlanta United fan base when I say that we had accepted not being an exciting team anymore. It was a long process but we accepted Frank de Boer’s slow build-up, possession based style after three or four months. A big reason for this acceptance was how good the team’s defending was. They were winning games by defending very compactly and as a team. Sure, we all wanted to see the free flowing attack back, but we learned to be okay with the dulled down style.
Something has changed in the last month or so and not for the better. The attack still lacks the excitement and edge-of-your-seat factor that we loved in the Tata Martino years. However, the defense has begun to falter drastically. Goals are flying past Brad Guzan like bugs past a motorcycle on the interstate.
It’s not even the goals they are allowing that’s the most concerning. It’s the chances given up. Seattle had a robust 3.19 Expected Goals total in the match (compared to Atlanta’s 0.89) and it didn’t even seem like they played very well. The Atlanta defense is making mistake after mistake. I’m not sure if it’s a dip in form or opposing teams figuring out that all you have to do is put pressure on De Boer’s repetitive build-up system to crack it. Whatever the case, something has to change.
For much of the first half of the season, we did nothing but praise the play of Miles Robinson and Franco Escobar. It should come as no surprise that this recent bad run of defensive form has correlated with those two having a massive dip in performance.
This is Robinson’s first full year as a starter. Some bumps are to be expected but it’s clear he’s not playing that level he was earlier in the season. Then there’s Franco who seems to be turning the ball over in the worst possible positions on a constant basis of late. He’s also a yellow card machine (yes, I’m aware he got hosed on this one call) that can’t stay on the field, so that just adds to the overall problems. Add in Leandro Gonzalez Pirez’s struggles in Chicago and terrible giveaway on the winning goal and it’s not looking pretty for the back line as a whole.
This isn’t even going into the fact that we’ve seen at least four different players start and play at left back in this month alone. It’s all seemingly going downhill at a rapid pace.
It’s An Illusion, Michael
“We’re above MLS.”
This is a serious sentiment I’ve seen on a regular basis over the past two and a half years. I’m not saying it’s what every Atlanta United fan believes, but I’ve seen the tweets and the comments. They are real.
Maybe that statement was true last season. It really felt like, from top to bottom, Atlanta United was the class of the league. Well, that illusion has been found out, I’m sad to say. For as special as the first two seasons were, Atlanta United is no Special One anymore. They don’t boast the attack that MLS analysts and talking heads drool over anymore. Their star players aren’t about to be sold to Europe for millions of profit. The only talk of fan atmosphere is a silly debate over saying naughty curse words or not. Atlanta United is no more special than the Philadelphia Union at this point. The season ticket numbers are great. The 13,000 waiting list is awesome. It’s probably the one thing still glamorous the club can boast about, because the on-field performances sure aren’t. If that doesn’t change, how long will that wait list wait?