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Barco’s missed chance showed us exactly what Frank de Boer wants

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Without Josef Martinez, de Boer’s tactical flexibility shone through in Atlanta United’s home opener.

SOCCER: MAR 07 MLS - Atlanta United FC v FC Cincinnati Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Another match, another victory, with another two goals coming from Ezequiel Barco and Emerson Hyndman.

For me, the main takeaway from the match is that Barco and Pity Martinez are both playing well and connecting more often up front to create chances. Or as FC Cincinnati midfielder Frankie Amaya said about defending against Atlanta: “Barco and Pity (Martinez) are pretty good on the ball and connecting with each other. It’s hard. You just got to do it and grind it out.”

The two were both rightly honored for their solid performances as members of the MLS Team of the Week.

On Barco’s goal, Pity did most of the heavy lifting to dribble to the end line and deliver a nice pass for his Argentine teammate to tap in. Manager Frank de Boer called it “like 90 percent [Pity’s] goal.”

“Pity really played really well,” de Boer said. (Wow, more than one “really.” That’s top praise!)

The defining moment of the match for de Boer, however, was not Barco’s goal nor Hyndman’s beautiful low shot past the FC Cincinatti keeper Spencer Richey. Instead, it was a missed scoring chance from Barco early in the first half that demonstrated how de Boer wants to see his team play.

In the 18th minute, Laurence Wyke, who had signed with the senior team the day before Saturday night’s match, played a beautiful ball into striker Adam Jahn’s feet. Jahn had made a smart run to open a passing option for his defender. Jahn then held the ball briefly before giving the ball to Pity, who then played a gorgeous ball to Barco that sliced open the Cincinnati defense.

Barco was in on goal, but he wasn’t able to convert past the outstretched Richey. It would’ve been a pretty nicely worked goal, and even though it didn’t go in the net, FdB used it as an example of how he wants his team to beat defenses playing in a low back by having players make runs in behind.

“We had some moments, for example, the great pass that found Pity then directly to Barco one against one in the first half,” he said. “That is what you are looking for. But it’s so rare, you know when you find those spaces.”

He added: “I think Barco did really well to put a lot of energy to make those runs. It opens up the game a little bit. He had some good runs. Unfortunately, he did not score on his first great run.”

Jahn also pointed to these kinds of combinations as what they’ll try doing more often.

“I think I made some good combinations where we were able to play to me and then lay it off to Pity,” said Jahn. “Especially with Barco, he’s so fast and quick, so we were trying to get him in behind a lot, and you saw that he was making a lot of runs like that. I was happy that I was able to dish the ball to Pity a few times because when the ball is at his feet, you know things are going to happen. We scored a goal and had a bunch of other chances with him.”

We’ll see if these three will be able to recreate this sort of magic against the likes of Club America later this week.