Atlanta United’s winless run was extended to 12 in controversial fashion on Wednesday night north of the border. The Five Stripes overcame a 2-0 second half deficit to salvage a 2-2 draw with some notable fireworks along the way. Josef Martinez sparked the comeback with his fourth goal of the season but his involvement in a questionable double-red card incident stalled the late comeback. Here are a few thoughts on a confusing, infuriating and weird night in Montreal.
- Let’s just hop right into the juicy stuff. Head referee David Gantar had himself a ‘mare as the kids say. Throughout the whole match he kept his whistle to himself, letting every borderline foul call go. While this philosophy as an official is fine it creates a sense of leniency as far as discipline action goes. So, when the biggest point of contention arose in the 80 minute and he brandished red cards to Josef Martinez and Victor Wanyama for a physical altercation that was inconsequential at the most, it was a hard turn for the tone of the match. Wanyama’s actions of putting his hands around Josef’s throat was the most notable action in the sequence. While Josef understandably stood his ground and admirably did not overreact to the aggression towards him. Yet, after video review, both players were sent off. This was just a poor decision all around and changed the outcome of the match.
- While there were only 10 minutes of regulation time plus stoppages remaining it was clear that Atlanta had the momentum and run of play having overturned a 2-0 deficit to tie it and seeing a Montreal player sent off earlier in the second half. Josef’s dismissal predictably halted all momentum and took all the bite out of the attack, meaning the 2-2 draw was the inevitable outcome. It’s a bitter result to swallow considering what could have been had cooler heads prevailed and play had been allowed to carry on.
- Atlanta was credited with over 2.00 xG by Opta thanks to the penalty kick which accounted for 0.76 of it. In reality, aside from a well-worked chance for Marcelino Moreno early in the match, the team spent a solid hour looking rather aimless and lost. Montreal controlled the match for the most part and Atlanta really struggled to get on the same page in both the build-up and attack. It wasn’t until after an atrocious set-piece goal was allowed that the team woke up and Ezequiel Barco and Josef Martinez teamed up for a no-nonsense goal. Barco took possession near the halfway line and ferociously dribbled straight up the field to find Josef near the box who finished brilliantly to the near post. That’s when the potential of the Josef-Barco-Marcelino attacking trident really began to emerge. Everything started to click and soon they had their penalty and a man advantage. It seemed very likely they would’ve gone on to win the match had the double-red had not occurred.
- It’s clear the team still lives and dies with Josef Martinez. We can only hope that whatever the team manages to do before the transfer deadline lifts some of the attacking production pressure off his shoulders. If rumors are accurate and a true out-and-out winger like Ferreira arrives it could be just what he needs. It’s obvious by now that neither Barco or Marcelino Moreno can occupy those wider areas with any effectiveness. Having someone who lives and thrives out there could be just was is needed for this attack.
- There’s really not much left to say on the overall direction of the team. Things still look rather bleak despite Josef being back and scoring goals. This signing is really going to have to galvanize the team and perhaps a new manager coming in will help as well. But as it stands there’s a lot of water being treaded at the bottom of the Eastern conference table.