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Four thoughts on Atlanta United’s 3-3 draw in Chicago

Another frustrating night on the road for the Five Stripes

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Chicago Fire Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Two points dropped

A road point is good, usually. But not against a team that is playing with 10 men for well over an hour. And especially not to a team that hadn’t scored two goals in a game since April 15. And especially especially not to do so by conceding both an Olimpico (second straight year that’s happened) and an equalizer in the waning moments of the game. If this was out of character for this team, I would honestly be willing to brush it aside as an outlier with confidence that the next time this scenario presented itself, a different result — the expected result — would transpire. But anyone who follows this team closely knows that’s not the case. Until we get to the point where we can expect this team to take care of business when it has a clear and decisive advantage in a game, they won’t be serious contenders.

Without Miles Robinson, Atlanta’s center backs struggled

When he’s been healthy, Robinson has been a nice security blanket over the years for Frank De Boer, Stephen Glass, Gabriel Heinze and Gonzalo Pineda. When he’s been around this long, it’s easy to forget how good he is until he’s gone — which Atlanta United fans experienced last year and got a good reminder with him out of the starting lineup Saturday.

Without him, Juanjo Purata and Luiz Abram looked panicky and generally not in control of Chicago’s forward line — even with the home side playing shorthanded. Purata has tended to look this way this season during the few occasions when Robinson has been unavailable. And Luiz Abram made a mess of the ball several times where you’d hope he’d be able to control the ball and re-establish possession for the team. Most typically, he’s just head the ball right back into the middle of the park, and sometimes Chicago was winning that second ball and immediately coming right back at Atlanta’s defense.

Self inflicted errors come home to roost

To continue a theme in today’s column, Saturday’s result was totally avoidable. But Atlanta

  • didn’t have its near post covered that allowed an Olimpico to sneak through past Quentin Westberg. Not sure if Ronald Hernandez should’ve stayed on the post he appeared to be marking instead of moving with a player, but IMO ultimate responsibility comes down to the goalkeeper in ensuring his defenders know what they should be doing.
  • Evened the numbers after two quick yellows by Luiz Araujo (though I do have to say that the second yellow seemed like a straight up bad call to me. It was an initial foul, but ultimately the yellow was given for an imaginary shirt pull a moment later when the Chicago player went down). And I’d add that Araujo wasted some opportunities in the attacking third with reckless dribbling/passing as well.
  • didn’t mark another simple cross in from wide. Giorgos Giakoumakis failed to fully track the fullback coming in on the back post, who was able to head back across goal into the mixer.

And these errors are on top of some of the sloppy play described by the starting center backs. Just not good enough. When you score three goals in a game where the opponent loses a man to a red card in the 26th minute, you just have to win that game every time.

Let’s remember the good stuff

I apologize if I come across overly negative in some of these postgame columns. My eyes and thoughts are naturally attracted to the areas of the team that can be improved, no matter the result but especially on a night like Saturday. To counter that, let’s remember some of the positives, such as:

  • Thiago Almada looking fit and healthy and creating opportunities for Atlanta United constantly. Could’ve easily had a goal or two himsefl in this one.
  • Giorgos Giakoumakis is only 45 minutes fit, but even in one half he makes a game’s worth of impact. And the beautiful thing about it is that it’s not just his production in a silo that changes the game for Atlanta, but how he makes all the pieces in the attack more effective.
  • Franco Ibarra also creates opportunities for the team with the areas in which he is brave enough to go to make defensive actions. Unfortunately he’ll serve a yellow card accumulation suspension next game, but let’s just consider that the cost of doing business.