Atlanta United cruised to a 5-0 victory over 10-man Houston Dynamo on Wednesday night. It was a much-needed three points for the Five Stripes and a performance that should instill some confidence in the squad going forward. Here are a few thoughts on a tough match to analyze.
For all intents and purposes, this match was over six minutes in when referee Chris Penso sent Houston star Alberth Elis to an early shower with two yellow cards in rapid succession. The Honduran was shown a yellow card for kicking the ball away after being whistled for a foul. When Penso approached to show the yellow card, Elis nudged into the referee with his body and was quickly sent off.
There are two perspectives I have of this incident. The soccer fan in my hates to see this called. By the laws of the game, it should be called. But as someone who wants to see good soccer, that minor of an incident shouldn’t leave a team short-handed for virtually the entire match. It’s a call that won’t be made the majority of the time, but for whatever reason, Penso was not having it one bit and stuck to the letter of the law.
The biased Atlanta United supporting side of me is perfectly fine with the decision. Yes, this side of me also calls into PGA events to report rules violations on players I see on TV. You want to fight about it?
Vote Of Confidence
It’s hard to honestly analyze a match like this. It’s great to see your team score five goals and play nice soccer. On the other hand there’s always the caveat of playing against a short-handed team. What can’t be ignored is that this type of showing has to give all the players a much-needed boost of confidence going forward. The last month has been very stale with the attack struggling. The change in shape offered some nice width and a fresh look. Hopefully this match can be used as a catapult towards a good run of form for the individuals and the collective.
Maybe more important than the confidence gained from this fun performance is that it required minimal effort throughout the 90 minutes. With the all the matches and minutes piling up, having Houston sitting back and this game devolving into a glorified training session is a huge bonus on everyone’s legs. D.C. United coming up at the weekend will be extremely difficult already and having to go into that match after a hard fought 90 minutes would’ve been even tougher. Thankfully, everyone should be as rested as possible after a midweek match thanks to the one-sidedness of the match.
Josef Martinez notched two more goals, upping his MLS season total to 15 and extending his streak to leagues matches scored in to six. The King is back to his best and it’s glorious to see. With the goals, he’s now scored against all 22 clubs currently in MLS. They will write entire books about the records broken and set by Josef. For now, just realize how blessed we are to witness it game in and game out.
Julian Gressel - It was a fantastic match in a familiar spot for the German. Playing out wide right in tons of space, it felt like the old days of him whipping in balls and making things happen. For as versatile as he is, it’s evident that he’s vastly more effective in this spot.
Emerson Hyndman - The new guy impressed again in his second start for the club. His talent and class is obvious. His technique in tight spaces is so nice to have out there in addition to Nagbe. He’s starting to make it hard on De Boer to leave him out of his best lineup and that’s a great thing for the squad.
Darlington Nagbe - Finally! After what seemed like an eternity, Nagbe finally found the back of the net for Atlanta United. Other than the goal, it was a classic Nagbe performance. Hardly put a foot wrong and was as reliable as ever. He seemed to have a bit of spark in his game and he was rewarded with a goal.