ATLANTA, Ga. - Atlanta United piled on ten-man Houston in the biggest win of the year thanks to goals from Josef Martinez, Julian Gressel, Brandon Vazquez and, yes, of course, Darlington Nagbe.
The things that happened in the game that was played
The very beginning of a game that seemed to be on track towards being fun and open-ended and exciting saw all those thoughts and dreams be neutered by an early red card given to Alberth Elis in the seventh minute.
Instead, it turned the game into a route.
In the 27th minute, Julian Gressel found Nagbe unmarked in the middle of the 18-yard-box for his first goal with Atlanta United.
Atlanta wasted no time finding their second.
It could have been more, but two goals were plenty for Atlanta as the half ended 2-0.
The second half was more of the same, just with a lot more Josef.
Martinez has now scored against every MLS team except his own. He has 11 goals in the last seven competitions. He sits four goals behind Carlos Vela in the golden boot race with two handfuls of games to go. Wouldn’t put it past the king.
The night ended with a lovely finishing move from Gressel.
A Recap Thought: Gresselmania running wild (On the right each game?)
Dude was real damn good. Atlanta returned to a 3-5-2 with great effect tonight, in large part because of the ruthless effectiveness of Julian Gressel at right wingback. A game that had high octane overtones even before the Elis red got turned into a Martino-era-esque route that both the team and the fans desperately needed to see. Gressel played a huge part in that with two assists and a goal on the night back in a position that both him and Frank agree he looks very comfortable in.
“I think it was more suitable for him. He really likes to run and makes crosses. He’s a good connection in that moment,” Frank de Boer said. “With his first control and he always knows where Josef is that’s a good combination.”
“It’s no secret that I like it up there on that side,” Gressel said. “It’s just a different spot and different shape to our team. And obviously against ten men it got me into some really good spots. Sometimes it paid off today.”
It’s likely that much of the talk around tonight’s game will center around the formation switch, Gressel’s increased role in that switch and whether any of this even matters at all due to Houston playing down a man from the eighth minute on (Yay?). I don’t have those answers and the people who say they do are most likely lying to you or themselves. But I will say that the general consensus in media land involved a recognition that this team had lost games up a man earlier this year, yet tonight looked extremely fluid from the beginning. Whether that’s due to the formation change, a change in personnel (yeah, yeah, we know which player was missing from the first XI), or the fact the Houston is...very bad at soccer, especially on the road, is unclear. But it is encouraging.
I could give you some quotes here from Frank and Julian about the formation change, but if I told you that they both said they have to take things game by game would you be even remotely shocked? The real meat of the postgame is that de Boer believes that Barco and Bello are both close to being inserted back into the team, which fits in well with the theme of the night. There are a lot of questions going forward with regards to formation, personnel and form. But, hey, for now at least the questions are positive. Tonight saw a much needed change in mood in the locker room and in the stands. Which leads us to the biggest question of the night: Will any of this last?
DSS Man of the Match
Like I said. Real damn good.
Larentowicz Man of the Match (Your unsung hero(es))
Jeff. Just because and because I can. Jeff, your commemorative t-shirt is in the mail.....actually, you know what, I’ll just deliver it to you, send me your addie.
Quote of the Night
A red card helps always, but you see in the red bull game we didn’t play like this. It’s a good step that we made. But I also think we started really well against 11.
We were really into this one the second the game started. I have a really good feeling about that.
Tweet of the Night
On the road, Wilmer Cabrera's Houston Dynamo teams have won 24 of a possible 192 points during his 2.5 seasons in charge coming into tonight. That's a 4-48-12 record.— Joe Patrick (@japatrick200) July 18, 2019
D.C. in town on Sunday. Remember that one time we beat them?
Mike Jones once made a song about hanging with the Houston Dynamo mascot and I couldn’t share it all night because I got to the stadium late.