Atlanta United’s 1-0 win against Inter Miami comprised of some of Gonzalo Pineda’s most pragmatic tactical decisions that we have seen so far during his tenure. Pineda is finally able to establish a defined front three in Ezequiel Barco, Martinez and Luiz Araújo, and Santi Sosa is coming into form again after sustaining an injury during the dog days of summer. Let’s take a look at what made Wednesday’s match special — beyond Josef Martinez’s 100th goal — and some of the things to expect as the Five Stripes shoot for a playoff spot.
Miles Robinson, Anton Walkes and Alan Franco showed off their ability to steadily defend against a dynamic Miami front line. In Phil Neville’s squad, Gonzalo Higuain led the attack while Robbie Robinson and Rodolfo Pizarro sat as narrow second-strikers behind him. But Higuain would come deep to win a passes and try to drag a defender with him. Robbie Robinson would try and then break in behind the space Higuain just created. By having Sosa sit right in front of the back three, it killed the possibility of Miles Robinson wandering forward to open up that space.
Here, Higuain tries to get by Walkes, but Sosa’s deep positioning kills all the vertical and lateral space around the Miami forward.
Midfield Transition at Halftime
In the first half, Atlanta’s 3-4-3 system had a diamond midfield with Sosa playing underneath Marcelino Moreno. But at halftime, the introduction of the Matheus Rossetto meant that the two midfielders would move to a more defined pivoting system which allowed them to not only man mark the two Miami second-strikers, but also forfeit space between the midfield and attacking lines for Barco and Araújo to cut into. The change uncluttered the attack and made it much easier on the two wingers to find the central space they both craved.
Here, look at two examples of the midfield. The first is Sosa and Moreno, and the second is Sosa and Rossetto.
Change to back four
The introduction of Jake Mulraney for Anton Walkes midway through the second half meant Atlanta moved from a 3-4-3 to a 4-3-3. Mulraney took the pivot role next to Rossetto and Sosa sat deeper in the no. 6. Atlanta defended with fewer numbers and instead prioritized winning the midfield, which they could now do comfortably. The attacking change signaled a great desire to win, and the penalty was won off of a cross that came from Mulraney hitting Bello out wide.
Here, look at how an extra man in the midfield forces Miami to try and man-mark on transition. Mulraney starts his positioning wide on this play, which creates a gap in the midfield perfect for a run to cross the ball into.
We are starting to see some of the tactical wrinkles Pineda is willing to use as he settles into his position as the head coach of Atlanta United. Hopefully these learnings will come in handy Saturday when the team has another crucial Eastern Conference matchup giants Montreal.