I know most of you are probably ready to put this disaster of a game behind you, but we’ve got one last thing to talk about: the offense.
It wasn’t good. Actually, it was practically nonexistent. In 90 minutes of soccer (if you can even call it that), Atlanta United put up just two shots to Columbus’ 15. If you think that sounds bad, just look at the shot map.
It’s not very often that the Five Stripes are shut down up top, so let’s take a look at why Atlanta struggled to create shot opportunities against the Crew.
Offside - Atlanta United 9’
Do you ever find yourself so frustrated at a player’s decision making during a game that you yell at your TV in vain hopes that he’ll somehow hear you and just PASS THE BALL!!! PASS THE [expletive] BALL?
That was me during this play. To be fair, that’s me during a lot of plays. Spoiler alert: it usually doesn’t work.
It all starts with Patrick Shulte, Columbus’ goalkeeper (ie: the only guy who can use his hands) about a yard from the midfield circle under intense pressure by Amar Sejdic (red arrow). I know I spent a great deal of Tuesday’s article bashing Sejdic’s performance at the 10, but he actually does well here to pressure Shulte. He comes in from the side the Crew keeper has his back to, cutting off his passing option to Philip Quinton (dotted yellow arrow).
The rest of the team is also doing a good job of marking Shulte’s passing options (dotted red arrows) and making his choice extremely difficult. Out of time and out of options, Shulte tries a desperate pass to Darlington Nagbe in the middle (blue arrow).
Nagbe gets the ball, but is immediately dispossessed thanks to pressure from Santiago Sosa and Franco Ibarra. The pair recover the ball and deliver it to Miguel Berry (blue arrow) who can now start a quick counterattack.
Now, if you’ll recall, Columbus’ keeper was nearly at the halfway circle just a couple of seconds ago. He’s not in frame right now, but I can tell you he’s in the middle of a mad dash to get back to the goal. At this point, I wouldn’t have been mad if Berry went for glory and tried to score on an open goal. I mean, you have to try, right?
Berry doesn’t think so. He keeps charging toward Columbus’ goal (blue arrow). Atlanta now finds itself with an interesting 3v4 developing as the Crew try to get numbers back. In thee midst of all this, Luis Araújo starts making a run on the right side (yellow arrow).
Now it’s at this point that I started yelling “PASS IT PASS IT HE’S RIGHT THERE” like a madman. Berry, who has three Columbus players in front of him and virtually no way to get past them himself, has a really good option to pass the ball through to Araújo (dotted blue arrow) who is already running to get onto it (yellow arrow).
Unfortunately, all of my yelling at the TV did no good as Berry held on to the ball (blue arrow)…
… and only decided to put in the pass (Dotted blue arrow) when Araújo was in an offside position (yes, I know this isn’t the moment Berry makes contact with the ball, but Araújo was still correctly ruled offside).
Araújo ended up one-on-one against Shulte then had his shot blocked before the assistant put his flag up for offside.
- Miguel Berry needs to work on his attacking instinct… a lot. First of all, as a striker you need to be confident and just go for it. Try that long shot against Shulte. He’s never going to get there before the ball, so as long as you’re on target it’s a goal. But I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say he wanted to make the break count and wasn’t 100% confident in his ability to hit what would’ve been the goal of the match day. If he’s going to try to get into the box for a shot, he needs to be looking out for his teammates around him and be aware that Araújo is making that run to play him in. You can’t delay the pass for that long. You just can’t
- Luiz Araújo needs to make his shots count more often. Yes, Araújo was ruled offside and the blocked shot that came from this attack didn’t matter. What does matter is that Araújo had a shot from inside the box that he absolutely needs to be beating the keeper. You never know how many chances you’re going to get in a game, so you need to make them count. Credit to Shulte though for making the save.
- The team was actually set up and pressuring pretty well at the beginning of the game. Yeah, this is an article analyzing the attack, but I think this is an important note to make because good pressure like the one in this play is what leads to attacks which can lead to goals. The players were pressuring similarly to how they had been the past few games and actually seemed confident enough to get a result up until Columbus’ first goal. It’s been a common trend in recent Atlanta United history that the team just seems to deflate when conceding the first goal and that’s exactly what happened in this match.
Good Chance - Atlanta United 11’
Remember how I talked about bashing Amar Sejdic for not being a good number 10? This play is an example of why.
After Atlanta took a free kick from the edge of their box, Quinton gets up to head it away (red arrow). The problem? The ball actually arrives to Araújo. Once again, Atlanta United has a 3v4 (more like a 4v4 with Araújo) situation developing on the break. Berry sees that his teammate has recovered the ball and begins to make a run in behind Columbus’ back line (yellow arrow).
Araújo now has room to run into (blue arrow) while his teammates make their runs and give him options. Notice that Sejdic (circled in purple) is offside, so the only real option at the moment is Berry who continues his run toward the box (yellow arrow).
Now Araújo is under pressure and running out of room, so he needs to make a choice. He sees Berry’s run into a great spot in the box (yellow arrow) and is ready to play him in (dotted blue arrow)…
… but Sejdic stops the ball from getting to Berry (dotted blue arrow) who could’ve likely at least gotten a shot off (yellow arrow). Instead, the ball goes back into the sea of Columbus players (solid blue arrow) who easily recover it and snuff out the danger.
- Amar Sejdic is not an attacking midfielder. I feel like I’ve said this before somewhere. I really have to pick on him here for stopping that ball because one of the key characteristics an attacking midfielder must have is good vision and awareness for where their teammates are. Go back and watch this play and count how many times Sejdic looks around him before Araújo plays the ball. He looks once and quickly sees Berry standing several yards from the box, but what he DOESN’T see is the Spaniard making his run to attack the space behind Sejdic. Go back and watch Atlanta’s third goal against Charlotte and notice that Almada looks back to Wiley twice before Araújo sends the ball and therefore knows that Wiley will be there to finish it off when the Argentine lets the ball run. Of course, this isn’t a fair comparison because Sejdic is not Almada nor does he play the same position as him nor should he ever. That’s the point. Let’s never try the Sejdic at the number 10 experiment again. Got it? Good.
- Miguel Berry makes a really good run. I criticized him in the last segment, so I’m going to praise him in this one. Perfectly balanced. From early on in this play, Berry saw the play developing and knew what space he had to attack to get the ball and take a shot. I really wish we got to see the alternate reality where Berry actually gets the ball just to see what could’ve been… oh well. Maybe it’s best not to know.
Atlanta United Goal - Brooks Lennon 71’
Hey! Atlanta actually end up getting their goal! Too bad it came five concessions too late. Let’s see what went right to allow the Five Stripes to get on the board.
Araújo carries the ball forward on the left flank and sees that Caleb Wiley is getting in a good position to send a cross into the box. The Brazilian plays the ball into the space ahead of Wiley (blue arrow) while two attackers run down the middle to get in the box for the cross (yellow arrows). Columbus gets back well with their whole back line retreating as a unit (red line), not allowing much space in between for Atlanta’s attackers to exploit.
Wiley gets the ball, but knows he’s better off delaying the cross a bit until one of his teammates can get open in the box (blue arrow). Wiley could try a throughballl to Berry who’s making a good run (yellow arrow), but he risks either being intercepted by Quinton or Shulte coming off his line to claim it if the pass goes too far. Keep an eye on Brooks Lennon (circled in purple) as he’s about to get in a really good position.
Wiley’s running out of time and neither of the forwards have gotten away from their markers. Erik Lopez tries to- wait, Erik Lopez?? He was on the field??!! Wow, ok. Anyways, Lopez tries to back up and get open (dotted yellow arrow), but Wiley can’t wait anymore. Fortunately, he sees Lennon at the top of the box and tries to pass to him (dotted blue arrow), but his pass is blocked by Quinton and the ball pops up to awkwardly fall right about where that solid blue arrow is pointing.
Sosa and Morris go for the ball (blue and red arrows, respectively) with the latter coming away with it. Notice that Lennon (underlined in purple) is still waiting in a good spot to get a quick shot off. The closest defender is several yards away from him (yellow arrow).
Morris might’ve beaten Sosa, but he now has Araújo to deal with. He takes on the Brazilian and…
… succeeds, sorta. The Brazilian doesn’t get the ball, but it rolls away (red arrow) into a great spot for Lennon to chase (blue arrow)…
… and get his shot away (blue arrow). His shot beats Shulte and got one back for Atlanta.
- Erik Lopez still exists. I honestly did not think I’d see him play for Atlanta United again, but life is full of surprises. I’m not sure what improvement to expect from him given that he did nothing of note during 18 appearances with Banfield last year, but maybe he’ll surprise us this season.
- It’s a wonder what you can do when you create shot opportunities. This goal was a bit scrappy and lucky given the rebounds it took to land perfectly for Lennon, but the opportunity for a shot was created nonetheless and it actually went in this time! May I remind you that Atlanta created just two shots in the game. This was one of them. When you don’t create shot opportunities, you can’t score. That was Atlanta’s problem at the beginning. The problem at this point was that they were still behind four goals, but maybe they wouldn’t have been if they’d made the most of their attacks in the beginning. Then again, I have to say…
- It’s hard to create shot opportunities when your main creative force is absent. It’s no secret that Thiago Almada is the engine of this team’s attack. I don’t know much about cars, but I’m pretty sure a car can’t run without an engine. What I’m trying to say is don’t panic about the result or the poor offensive production in this game. For now, this game was just a fluke. Let’s see how they respond in their game against New York Red Bulls and then we can decide to panic. Man, I sure hope writing this doesn’t come back to bite me in the rear on Saturday.
That’ll do it for this week of analyses. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!