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Illustrated Box Score: Motagua 1 - 1 Atlanta United - Ain’t they Five Stripes Hell?

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Apparently there was soccer on this week

FBL-CONCACAF-MOTAGUA-ATLANTA Photo by ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP via Getty Images

We’re going to begin this Illustrated Box Score with a word about the Prekrap. It’s dead. We killed it. It was time.

For three years there were game previews. At first I didn’t feel qualified to write these, but as Rob says, “yolo” and away I went. I did not know much about how to craft a preview. One time on Men in Blazers I heard Roger Bennett say he didn’t read them because there’s no real way to know what’s going to happen in a game. This seemed perfect for me - a Sisyphean task in which I would discuss the unknowable. It took about two years before I was really happy with the format I’d use for them. I could look to the past, the future, and the galaxy for guidance on the outcome of a soccer game knowing that I had the leisure as a sportswriter of not having to be accountable for anything discussed in my posts if I so choose. It was like I was working for 538 in 2016.

A key part of this - and I think sports in general, but especially soccer - is that the pieces can be set, conditions known, talent levels approximated, coaching abilities compared, and a rough approximation of what could happen in a game can be gleaned from these objective and subjective things. The second the ball is kicked all that goes out the window and the universal forces that apply to all things show up - chaos, entropy, and randomness. In other words, soccer is hard. A player gets a red card, a ref makes a bad call, someone picks up an injury. There’s not a preview in the world that can get any of that right. This is more or less what I wanted to capture with the Prekrap, along with vaguely and deeply critical bantz directed toward the opposition, other MLS Analysts, and Atlanta United itself.

At times this seemed confusing - as was reflected in comments like “wow, I didn’t learn anything about what would happen in this game from reading this, why is it 1,700 words?” from someone with a username like ATLTIDAlpharettaLogicUGA1981Sales. To the first point - this is exactly right, you’ve grasped this concept completely, welcome to having a deeper understanding of the universe. To the second, word limits are oppressive - my text deserves freedom.

Chaos, entropy, and randomness can be good or bad. Atlanta gets its fair share of plays that benefit it from these forces - arguably, Atlanta creates them, but the universe is still the main change agent in these scenarios. Something like that is happening to the Prekrap. It’s going away for the most part this year - maybe it’ll make an appearance off the bench here or there, who knows. BUT DON’T WORRY ATLTIDAlpharettaLogicUGA1981Sales - you can endure run on sentences, bantz, charts, memes, bad analysis, commentary about commentary, player quotes, and more of whatever I feel like putting on the website in the new and improved and back for good in 2020 Illustrated Box Score.

It’s going to be a good time. Thanks for reading the previews and Prekraps over the years. Sydney is going to be running the pre-game show from now on and has done a great job of providing actual useful information when he’s done them before.

#UntieAndConquer #KingsArePeaches #KingsOfGoldenRailroadSpikes #RealAtlanta #WhyAreAllTheMLSKitsSoBadThisYear

Anyway, here’s the Illustrated Box Score for a game I didn’t watch because I went to bed at 9:30 on Tuesday and couldn’t find a replay since it was broadcast on ESPN 8.

From what I’ve gleaned, Atlanta United had a plan. It was something along the lines of stop the other team from scoring and see what happens in the attack. Apparently it worked great, but this is the formation the team used.

My understanding of the formation was that the defense would clear and Atlanta would only attack when Jeff Larentowicz would scream “IT’S PEANUT BUTTER JELLY TIME” at which point Pity, Barco, and Josef would try to do some magic stuff.

We also found the Nagbe replacement as shown by these four big red boxes in the midfield. It’s pretty clear from this graphic that the plan for working the ball through midfield is to leave that task up to the wide players. Or something. Zone 14 or whatever is a big red void but somehow Atlanta managed to hold most of the possession in this game.

As I’d been saying all pre-season, the rebuild was needed, will go great, the team’s culture and identity will shine through, and Pity will be the guy from highlight videos that we thought he’d be and not the guy that plays pickup and hogs the ball but doesn’t really do anything.