Atlanta United dropped its second consecutive result, losing 2-1 away to New England Revolution on Saturday night. A rotated lineup looked incredibly disjointed and was outmatched for the majority of the 90 minutes. A second half VAR review handed the hosts a match-deciding penalty decision that ended up being the difference on the scoresheet. Here are some thoughts on a forgettable trip up North.
As soon as the Atlanta United lineup was released to the public it was clear that Gabriel Heinze was taking a big risk. By keeping the likes of Ezequiel Barco, Josef Martinez, and Miles Robinson on the bench it was always going to be a tough ask to get a result against a very good team. The decision to save some players’ legs for Tuesday’s return leg in Philadelphia is an interesting one considering the 3-0 deficit they face.
However, for the players that were on the field it was clear that no one was operating at peak performance levels. The Revs were the better and more proactive side from the outset and Atlanta were lucky to be level going into the half. This seems to be a constant theme early in the season for MLS teams who compete in CCL. The Columbus Crew played Montreal to a lackluster 0-0 draw earlier in the day. The Union lost 2-0 to NYCFC. And Portland got thumped 4-1 by FC Dallas. As much as it’s unhealthy to make constant excuses for poor results and performances, the CCL Hangover is an undeniable factor.
Game of Inches
As per usual with any questionable refereeing decision, the pitchforks are out after VAR awarded the Revs a second half penalty that was converted for the deciding goal. I can’t sit here and say definitively if it was or wasn’t the right call. Unfortunately it was just one of those 50/50 calls that went against Atlanta United. It’s a long season and hopefully those types of decisions will even out over the course of it. There’s really no point in laying all the blame of a dud of a performance at the feet of one officiating call.
Our old friend the Injury Bug has returned with a vengeance, claiming both Jurgen Damm and Ezequiel Barco in this one. The already-sputtering attack will need some new faces to step up while those two are recovering from what appear to be pesky muscle injuries. Erik Lopez finally got a small chance, playing around 20 minutes. It’s time for him to grasp any opportunity he’s given over the next few weeks and prove to Heinze he’s worthy of being considered an important part of the rotation. With the fixture list not getting any easier or less busy, the depth of the squad is about to be tested in a big way.