Atlanta United played the New York Red Bulls to a scoreless draw on Sunday afternoon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. With the result, the Five Stripes maintain their spot at 10th position in the Eastern conference standings. This is their third straight draw at home and their fifth league match in a row without a win. Here are a few thoughts on what’s going wrong in the ATL.
I really dreaded writing this article. I didn’t want to be dismissive or petulant because there really isn’t much new to discuss about a team that just can’t create substantial chances in the attack. While trying to muster some ideas for what to write about in a serious manner I came across my good friend Joe Patrick’s post-game thoughts in which he lays out some legitimate concerns for the near and long-term future of the club. I figured it’d be interesting to go point-by-point and address them.
Worried about Gabriel Heinze as a manager
This is obviously the most contentious point around the Atlanta United community right now. The old debate of players vs. tactics is heating up in a big way. Whatever your opinion is on Heinze at Atlanta United so far it’s clear he has some faults that can’t just be attributed to not having the right players.
Stubbornness was something Tata Martino struggled with early in his MLS tenure and Heinze does as well. Whether it’s refusing to alter his tactics or shape to constantly sticking with one player and not giving others a chance.
Where was Jackson Conway? Why is Cubo Torres playing 90 minutes?
Which brings us to the most head-scratching decision that has constantly been made over the past few weeks. Cubo Torres was brought back on a veteran minimum salary and not expected to play much. Fast forward to June and because of some extenuating circumstances, he’s started nearly every important match since the international break.
The argument that Cubo is the only experienced striker option on the roster available is a valid one. But when he’s clearly not offering much in the way of end product, what’s the harm in giving someone else a chance?
In the match against the Red Bulls, Atlanta created a respectable 1.00 xG throughout the 90 minutes. The problem is that six of the team’s 13 shot attempts were by Cubo. He had two of the team’s top three highest xG chances and six of their 10 highest. Having someone who has proven not to be clinical or really effective at all in front of goal getting on the end of those chances is problematic to say the least.
When there are younger options with potential like Jackson Conway who can’t sniff the field during a massive attacking drought questions will be asked. Is it a guarantee that Conway would do better on the end of those chances? No. But at this point isn’t trying something new a better option than banging your head against the same wall over and over?
Worried about the injury crisis
Worried about their prospects under Gabriel Heinze
This one is quite complicated to dig into at this point. It’s still extremely early into the project and while the team’s short-comings are infuriating on a match-to-match basis the roster is a complete mess. The front office focused on the defensive end of the field in the offseason while leaving the attack virtually untouched. It’s very clear that the current mix of attackers doesn’t fit what Heinze wants to do. I feel like he desperately needs to have some input on at least a couple of attacking reinforcements before we completely judge his long-term prospects as Atlanta manager.
Worried about the state of this organization from top to bottom
I like to think we here at DSS don’t sugarcoat much and tell you our honest opinions. Well, it’s not looking great, folks. There’s been a mass exodus of staff members from top to bottom with not much in the way of replacements coming in. Whether it be the analytics and scouting departments or the youth setup. It’s just feels like a mess at the moment with no quick fix in sight.
Obviously at the end of the day 99% of people here only care about the results on the field but it feels like all of these holes in the organization have contributed to the steady downward trend the club finds itself in. Until there are significant signs of on-field improvement there are going to be justified concerns about Atlanta United as a whole.
Someone help me.
At least they aren’t Arsenal?