There are bad results during every MLS season and then there’s Atlanta United’s draw against Toronto FC on Saturday night. The 1-1 result to finish off the team’s regular season home schedule could honestly be considered one of the worst outcomes to a match in Five Stripes’ history.
That claim may seem outlandish or hyperbolic, but let’s look at the facts. Atlanta United desperately needed to win this match for their playoff push efforts. Meanwhile, Toronto FC’s season is done. So much so that they chose to rest several key players for their midweek Canadian Championship matchup next week. If that’s not enough to drive the point home, they chose to sub out three more key players at halftime while down a goal. The eleven players remaining on the field was a who’s who of collective nobodies.
Gonzalo Pineda put his side in the best spots to win the match easily. The OPTA Expected Goals metric says that Atlanta dominated the match with 2.59 xG on 19 shots. Josef Martinez, who had arguably his worst night in front of goal in his Atlanta United career, was credited with 1.42 xG worth of chances all on his own. Yet the only goal the team could muster was one handed to them on a silver platter by the opposing goalkeeper.
On the other side of the coin it’s the return of an extremely frustrating trend of allowing a late goal out of nothing to drop points. Yes, the team should’ve undoubtedly scored more goals to put the match to bed. However, this trend is unforgivable at this level no matter the reasons for it. You can only place blame on the manager so many times. When he’s doing everything he can to put players in the proper positions, at some point it comes down to the people of the field not getting the job done.
In a bubble you could chalk up the poor finishing or conceding the lead late to bad luck or an abnormal occurrence. But it’s extremely demoralizing on a night like this when every conceivable variable has been stacked in your favor and both rear their heads at the same time.
As much as we want to believe that the team is continuously improving under their new manager, they keep trying to show up exactly who they are through the glaring mistakes. With just two matches remaining to wrap up a playoff spot if the mistakes aren’t corrected soon it’s going to be a short postseason for this iteration of Atlanta United.