Atlanta United extended its winless streak to four matches on Sunday afternoon as they played Inter Miami to a 1-1 draw in summer-like conditions in South Florida. Josef Martinez’s first competitive goal since his return from multiple knee surgeries was not enough to carry the Five Stripes to a win. Here are a few thoughts on the end of a grueling stretch of matches that did not go very well:
The Last of the Excuses
Gabriel Heinze made it known after the Philadelphia disappointment that he was not pleased with the fixture congestion at the start of Atlanta United’s season. It’s clear that fatigue and injuries have taken their toll on the squad and it showed big time today. This was a match that could’ve easily been one had Atlanta had fresh legs to freely press a very sloppy team in possession. A fully fit team with energy and intensity most likely kills off the match in the first half with as many mistakes as Miami were making in their own end. Instead, those opportunities to win the ball back high up the field were squandered, leaving only one goal on the afternoon to show for their efforts.
In the second half, Atlanta’s players were very lethargic all over the field, failing to close down Miami’s players. Then there were the countless moments of pure embarrassment in possession where Atlanta players would seemingly hand the ball back to the opposition as if it were a charity drive. The most notable instance of this was Alex DeJohn’s uncontested free kick that was aimlessly booted up the field right to a Miami defender that started the counter-attack that led to the equalizer.
We can only hope these ridiculous errors, such as tragic passes or giving the ball away without much pressure, can be cured with some rest and recuperation. If not, it could be a long season ahead.
Finally the string of double match weeks come to an end and the team can return home for a fully week of recovery and training as it prepares for CF Montreal to come to town. Taking into account the week of normal preparation along with full capacity being allowed at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, there are no more logical excuses for a poor performance next weekend.
Despite the narrative being really negative over the last month, Josef Martinez attempted to put his team on his back and carry them to victory. His first goal since his comeback was a thing of beauty. After the goal he still worked hard to try to lift the attack that really had no bite other than his own. The talk around the soccer world has been that Josef looks a shell of himself, lacks fitness, and even lacks confidence. However, I haven’t seen that at all. Ever since the home opener, I see a hungry striker lacking any semblance of service. Sure, he’s not anywhere near the peak Josef Martinez we’ve grown accustomed to. But he’s steadily getting better and is still the biggest threat this team has to offer. The problem is that those around him can’t get him the chances he needs to be the goal scorer this team desperately needs.
After last weekend’s bitter loss to New England in which the result was decided by a questionable penalty call that went against them, Atlanta United were extremely lucky to escape Miami with a point. Two separate shouts for a penalty in the second half were ignored by the referee and VAR. This is a prime example of why it’s pointless to bemoan every single borderline call that goes against you.
Outside of refereeing decisions, Miami completely dominated a tired and rudderless Atlanta side in the second half. The Five Stripes were incredibly lucky to get a result of this match despite playing respectably well in the first half.
Hopefully this grueling stretch coming to an end is exactly what Heinze and his players need to regroup and start trending in a more positive direction both performance and results wise.