Atlanta United opened the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals with a 3-0 defeat to Club America at the famed Estadio Azteca on Wednesday night. The Liga MX giants out-classed the Five Stripes on a night that was overshadowed by the looming concerns over the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic. Here are a few thoughts on another lesson in CCL woes.
- First and foremost, the giant elephant in the room must be addressed. The Coronavirus threat is real and has rocked the sports world over the last 24-48 hours. As a fan watching at home, it was very difficult to focus entirely on Atlanta United’s match on Wednesday night. It’s impossible to know if the day’s events of sports cancellations and travel bans had any effect on the players on the field, but it’s something to keep in mind. For now, the MLS season and CCL is set to go on as scheduled, but that could change at the drop of a hat. This thing is real and soccer seems very insignificant in comparison.
- On to the actual game, it went about as expected for the realistic among us. Even before Josef Martinez’s injury, Atlanta’s CCL hopes seemed quite thin after the massive offseason roster overhaul. After his injury, even the most optimistic of Five Stripes supporter would’ve had their doubts about not only this difficult tie but CCL in general. Playing a rotated side, Club America made it look easy against the short-handed Atlanta eleven in the first half. Personally, I think the initial tactics from Frank de Boer were a little peculiar. The 5-3-2 with Jeff Larentowicz playing along the back line was quite an interesting decision that didn’t pay off in the slightest. The compactness of a 4-3-3 we saw against Motagua seemed like the obvious way to approach this match too, but the manager disagreed. America’s second goal seemed to come as a direct result of those tactics. A playmaker was able to find tons of space in the midfield to pick out a throughball for an attacker that peeled off of Larentowicz and finished nicely. De Boer admitted to the media afterwards that his approach may have not been the correct one.
Per Frank de Boer via conference call:— Felipe Cárdenas (@FelipeCar) March 12, 2020
He said he chose to drop deeper and play more reserved and compact. He wanted to be aggressive in midfield but said they couldn't get pressure on the ball.
"That's on me of course."
FdB said Rossetto "twisted his ankle." #SCCL2020
- The second half saw a tactical shift from De Boer and the inclusion of Matheus Rossetto. It appeared as if the shape shifted into some variation of the 4-3-3 and it worked nicely. The team looked dangerous and threatening from the second half kickoff. Unfortunately, disaster struck about 10 minutes into the half with Rossetto departing with a lower leg injury. Thankfully, it could just be an ankle twist, according to De Boer. Losing Josef was incredibly difficult. Rossetto was that ray of optimism waiting in the wings. He’s shown nothing but class since arriving at the club. If he’s out for an extended period of time as well, it will be a huge blow to the team’s chances this season. Let’s hope for the best.
- It must be said that despite America’s first half dominance, Atlanta showed their quality in the second half and competed admirably. They created several chances and could’ve scored one or two to make things interesting. Pity Martinez and Ezequiel Barco each didn’t have the best of nights overall, but both were buzzing around in the last 30 minutes making things happen out of nothing. It was unfortunate that they were unable to find the net and make the second leg comeback a little more feasible.