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Three Thoughts on Atlanta United’s thriller in LA

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Atlanta United lost, but it wasn’t all bad. Actually, a lot of it was good.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Los Angeles FC Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Folks, it is late, I’m in Montana (which mean’s I’m working with < 1 mbps download speed), and life is too short. Therefore, this will be an abbreviated game thoughts column, but please let me know what thoughts you had in the comments.

Atlanta competed on the road

Listen, this game was far from perfect. Atlanta United lost, and they conceded four goals in an 11 minutes span that would eventually seal its fate. Multiple players fluffed their lines in front of goal at times that could’ve changed the result. It’s zero points. But despite all this, the Five Stripes never stopped (omg Joe). But seriously, for the first time in a long time, Frank de Boer’s team showed grit and character on the road. Guts were spilled. Players from both teams collapsed to the ground at the final whistle. [Frank de Boer voice] This is what you want to see [/Frank de Boer voice]. To be honest, of the seven goals scored in the game, only LAFC’s fourth could be categorized as a well-worked, attractive goal — hardly the kind of game you’d expect from either of these two teams, but exactly the kind of game you’d expect from two very competitive and evenly-matched teams.

Ezequiel Barco: Still Good.

I feel like I could just leave it at this, but I’ll elaborate a bit. Having not played a competitive match in forever (U.S. Open Cup in a monsoon at MAPFRE Stadium doesn’t count), Barco looked AMAZING. I mean, my God — the run he made from an LAFC corner kick that culminated with him slipping a ball between two LAFC defenders from a tight angle to set up a chance from Josef Martinez; the interplay he had with Justin Meram weaving around each other down the left side; just, every time he touched the ball... it was everything you couldn’t possibly expected and maybe more. I don’t know how Frank de Boer is going to work out his best XI with Josef Martínez, Pity Martínez, and Barco all included, but man... the guy is just good at kicking the soccer ball. I’m very excited to see more.

Fine, let’s talk formations

I really don’t want to get into an argument about whether Mo Adams, Justin Meram, or Dion Pereira is the best left wing back. The only specifics I care to discuss is how Atlanta can play with Josef Martínez, Pity Martínez and Ezequiel Barco in the same lineup. Let’s unpack this report from what FdB said postgame:

To me, this is FdB saying that, in a 3-5-2, Barco and Pity occupy the same role, which is as the second forward alongside Josef. Therefore, it seems unlikely that we will se a 3-5-2 with Barco as a central midfielder and Pity as the second forward. This makes total sense, because Barco is an attacking player. Simply calling him a central midfielder on the lineup card doesn’t mean that he will be capable of fulfilling all the duties that are required of a player in that position. So, it appears that the only way these three can play together is if Frank de Boer utilizes a back 4. The question is, after what we’ve seen from this team in recent games in a 3-5-2, is whether that’d be a smart thing to do.

Personally, I’d be happy to see the team go back to a 4-3-3, because unlike the way it functioned in the past (which was more like a 4-2-3-1), now you have Emerson Hyndman, who really rounds out a strong central midfield unit that can win midfield battles. So my ideal lineup right now is: Brad Guzan, some combination of four defenders, Remedi/Nagbe/Hyndman in midfield, and Pity/Barco/Josef as the forwards. Tell me I’m wrong.

Bonus thought:

Yes, I’m unhappy with the refereeing, thanks for asking. Pity Martínez continues to get hauled down in the same way Carlos Vela does. Only one of them gets the calls they deserve.

And it was not a penalty.