Atlanta United has looked collectively poor this preseason. That’s not to say there haven’t been bright spots here and there. Pity Martinez, Ezequiel Barco, and even the team’s newest acquisition Matheus Rossetto have had some individual moments that stood out. But the takeaways from the collective performances against IF Elfsborg, Birmingham Legion, and most recently Leones Negros have been ones of dread. Because the ball moved slowly, because players seem outnumbered all over the field, because Josef Martinez is hardly touching the ball, and you know that none of this is good at all.
Are fans simply hoping that all of this automatically corrects course and Atlanta United will be reborn against FC Motagua in the CCL? Or if not, then certainly the team will look better against Nashville SC in the MLS opener, right? We know that’s unlikely to be the case based on the experience last year. The team labored to dispatch Herediano in CCL and couldn’t even must a home win against FC Cincinnati playing their second match in MLS.
Atlanta can indeed improve and improve quickly, but there has to be a tactical shift. It won’t be spoken into existence.
Is a back 3 impossible to play with? Of course not. But it’s much easier to play out of a back three with players like Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and Michael Parkhurst — defenders who are comfortable with the ball at their feet and playing in midfield. Those players are gone for the first time. Without their talents, the manager will need to find different solutions to the problems plaguing this team.