Atlanta United were eliminated from the Concacaf Champions League at the quarterfinal stage for the third season running on Tuesday night. A 1-1 draw with the Philadelphia Union was not enough to dig out of the deep 3-0 hole they had dug themselves into last week. While it was a respectable effort on the night and the players all gave it their all to pull off the comeback, in the end there just wasn’t enough creativity or production in the final third to make it happen. Here are some thoughts on another frustrating exit from the CCL:
Trust the Process?
There’s really not a ton to say about Atlanta’s play on the field in this one because it’s a lot of the same things we’ve seen early on so far this season. The team held possession very well but created very few real chances in the final third. Santiago Sosa stood out clearly as the Five Stripes’ best player. It’s a shame there aren’t more of him to put in every position on the field. It would certainly make life easier for Gabriel Heinze.
A slightly rotated lineup due to injuries and a lack of depth in the attacking end has seemingly caused a bit of stagnation for The Process (TM). There were always going to be growing pains entering this new era, but the cohesion, understanding of the philosophy, and execution still appears a ways away. After suffering through 2020, we’re all just going to have to accept that the transition is going to take some time to bear real fruit.
It’s certainly not time to panic, no matter how frustrating the lack of goal scoring opportunities may be. Heinze has a clear plan, but it’s not a certainty he has the tools at his disposal to execute it. We’ll just have to wait and see how the players continue to adapt and adjust to his instruction.
The bigger story of the night was after the match when Philadelphia Union manager Jim Curtin unleashed some petty name calling in the direction of his Atlanta counterpart. The veteran MLS coach was angry over the fact that Heinze refused to shake his hand after the final whistle. He mentioned that Heinze was upset with the Union’s clear and obvious time-wasting and injury faking. In particular that of Sergio Santos in both legs and Kacper Przybyłko in Atlanta. Curtain opened up his 8th grade book of insults and called Heinze a “sore loser” and an “A**hole”.
Jim Curtin said Gabriel Heinze leveled an accusation that Union players were diving and faking things.— Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) May 5, 2021
"I get that but I don't think that's what we're about. I think we're about doing our talking on the field."
Jim Curtin on Gabriel Heinze: "He's a great player and a great coach, but you can still be a sore loser and an asshole after a game"— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) May 5, 2021
In my eyes this seems like a both parties are in the wrong situation. Sure, Heinze refusing to shake hands after losing and being frustrated is a bad look. However, to flat out lie and say faking injuries and wasting time isn’t “what we’re about,” when it’s comically obvious what happened, is just as bad.
Pettiness and drama is sports is always fun. Perhaps this is the start of a little rivalry between two quality clubs? Or it could just be a little combined temper tantrum that is forgotten about in a few days. No matter the outcome, we’re here for the high school drama to spice up the monotonous postgame narratives.