For the second time in four days, Atlanta United controlled a match, shut out their opponent, and looked much more dangerous in the final third. And not coincidentally, it was also the second straight match in which Frank de Boer trotted out a 3-5-2 formation.
“There’s no reason to change things,” Josef “The King” Martinez said after the 5-0 win midweek against Houston, and FdB seemed to agree as he stuck with worked on Wednesday.
The 2-0 win against DC United was impressive, and not just because they did it against 11 men for 90 minutes this time around. The Five Stripes dominated every offensive category, including expected goals (2.87-0.96), shots on target (6-3), and possession (71%-29%). They gave up a few opportunities on the break, but overall the defense looked solid.
Everyone, especially FdB, seemed happy with the overall performance and the way the 3-5-2 worked, even with some of his first-choice players missing from the lineup. When asked if he planned to keep the tactics the same in the weeks ahead, De Boer hedged a bit and said he always considers the opponent, but he did reveal that he’d stick with what’s working for now:
“You have to have confidence in your players and your own system. In this system, everybody is suited well and feels comfortable. There is no reason for me to change at that moment. We can always look at it. We don’t really have a left fullback.”
Two things. First, the “no reason for me to change” is as clear a signal as you’ll get from these press conferences that they’ll stick with the 3-5-2 against LAFC this Friday. Second, dang FdB, did you forget about America’s Boy Scout Mikey Ambrose? He isn’t wrong about the left back situation, with Brek Shea out for the season and George Bello still coming into fitness. Once Bello and Barco are back, the side should, SHOULD be able to take it up into a higher gear.
De Boer’s Midday Runners
FdB dropped plenty of other nuggets after the match praising Pity, the back three of Robinson, LGP, and Escobar, and Gressel.
He also focused on the importance of having runners come out of the backline and midfield through the open channels. The runs force defenders to make decisions on which players to mark or space to occupy. It’s something he’s touched on several times in the past.
Back in March after the 1-1 draw against FC Cincinnati, FdB emphasized that “you have to have runners … try to look more for runners behind their last line … every time we created chances, we did it with dangerous runners.” He said the same after the 5-0 win against Houston last Wednesday:
“Darlington Nagbe’s runs behind, Michael Parkhurst made those runs, and this is what you want. You have to make unselfish runs, sometimes, you get it, and sometimes, you don’t, but you will distract the opponent”
Following the DC United match, FdB specifically mentioned a run Emerson Hyndman made right before the penalty call on Josef (you know, the one that came before Josef gave the ball a one-way ticket to Chattanooga?):
“Hopefully, when one individual action runs behind or runs and makes plays for other players. This is what you want to see. For example, the penalty was a great run by Emerson Hyndman. He makes a distraction, and Josef (Martinez) takes it with his chest, and we get a penalty awarded. So, this is what I want to see. How many times Franco (Escobar) came from outside inside to make that run, and Eric (Remedi) took over his position. Then, something happens. Again, I was really pleased with the performance and how we executed this game.”
See for yourself:
De Blasé on Defensive Lapses
Maybe FdB was in a good mood after the win, but he didn’t seem too concerned with the chances his team allowed to DC United, the best of which came when Paul Arriola couldn’t get one past Brad Guzan:
This chance came off a turnover in midfield with an errant pass from Nagbe that resulted in Luciano Acosta playing Arriola through in the space behind LGP. FdB didn’t seem to phased about it though:
When you unexpectedly lose the ball and they are focusing on (the ball), it will always happen one time that you lose your man. You try to avoid it and minimize those mistakes. We have to understand that you have to be secure when we do it like ten yards higher on the pitch, then, we still have seven men behind the ball. If we do it halfway line and we lose easy balls, then they are focused on getting the ball behind our last line. That happened two times. You cannot avoid it. You want to avoid it, of course. This is the game. The game is a sport of who makes the most mistakes, and I think we didn’t make that many mistakes today.
In other words, stuff happens. But Atlanta United will have to be extra careful about allowing this sort of lapse against LAFC this Friday, as I imagine Carlos Vela will put chances like this in the back of the net.