Atlanta United returned from the international break the same way they entered it, by blowing a two-goal lead late at home and dropping points. The Philadelphia Union scored two goals, including an absolute thunderbolt in stoppage time, to earn a dramatic 2-2 draw with the Atlanta. Another heart-breaking result won’t be easy for the Five Stripes to stomach. Here are a few thoughts on a very worrying trend making itself known.
- Where do we even begin with this one? Unlike the Nashville debacle there aren’t a ton of positives to lean on to soften the blow of the final result. At least in that match the attack looked lively for the majority of the match and Josef Martinez showed some great signs of returning to full fitness. There just aren’t those same crutches to lean on to help get over giving up two goals after the 80th minute. The truth is, Philadelphia were the much better side on both ends of the field. The Expected Goals numbers show that the Union had a full goal better xG total than Atlanta.
- If not for a Brad Guzan wonder save in the first half it could’ve gotten ugly for Atlanta really quick. Instead they held on and even got the luck of an own goal to give them hope. Top that with a nice header from Anton Walkes — off a broken setpiece play nonetheless — and Gabriel Heinze’s side were in prime position to steal three points from a match they probably deserved none from. Instead, they broke right after the goal thanks to a horrendous rebound conceded by Guzan.
- Heinze set up a “second preseason” of sorts during this three-week international break with the goal of instilling his and getting everyone on the same page. Unfortunately that all seemed to be for naught as tactical organization really let the team down on multiple fronts against the Union. Most notably on the equalizing goal with Jakob Glesnes having nearly 30 yards of space between him and the closest defender. While the idea of giving up a clear shot from over 35 yards out to a center back isn’t the worst strategy, the mantra of Heinze’s system is supposed to be high intensity and in-your-face. Instead the team-wide effort on the goal was almost non-existent. That’s an extremely worrying sign considering how much rest everyone had beforehand.
- The disorganization and lack of chemistry wasn’t limited to just that back-breaking goal either. The attacking duo of Ezequiel Barco and Marcelino Moreno still fail to get on the same page. Both players seem to want to occupy the same spaces and play the same role. They often either make the wrong decisions or put too much pressure on themselves to make the game-changing play in lieu of finding teammates in better positions.
- Obviously not having Josef Martinez around hurts, but it’s hard to say he would’ve changed much considering all we’ve seen so far this season. The process of integrating Heinze’s system was always going to be slow, but it still just feels like he’s missing the tools needed to get the most out of this team.