Atlanta United showed resiliency
All too often the last few years, we’ve seen Atlanta United crumble in the face of adversity. Going into Wedensday’s game against NYCFC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium without any of their designated players and half of their starting lineup would certainly qualify. But the young, hungry team met the challenge as best they could and got a deserved point out of the match, with only a couple of sloppy isolated plays preventing them from winning all three on the night.
The most similar comparison we can draw to last night’s match without so many starters was the team’s road trip to Columbus earlier this year that ended in a lopsided 6-1 loss. The only differences in the starting lineups between the two games were Jay Fortune playing last night instead of Santi Sosa in April, and Tyler Wolff started instead of Luiz Araujo. And while many might think that those would be downgrades, Atlanta looked markedly tougher, hungrier, more combative.
“Even though we were a young team, maybe inexperienced, six homegrowns which is a mark for Atlanta United...but the mentality and the resilience,” Gonzalo Pineda said after the game. “I told you guys that what we learned is that this time we were ready to compete and I think we did that. Maybe it wasn’t good as at times we didn’t look as good as cohesive which maybe is normal, but we were fighting, we were competing till the end we were pushing for 3 points.”
And here’s Noah Cobb:
“I think in the previous game [at Columbus], we conceded and then our heads kind of dropped,” said Cobb. “But today we conceded, and we just kept going. So, I think we learned from that and now we are here.”
And Brooks Lennon:
“I think we’ve grown and developed through the season. Guys have gotten much more playing time,” said Lennon. “You know, it’s difficult games you’ve seen Tyler Wolff came in and scored a goal tonight, but he’s had a good stretch of games, and I don’t think when we played Columbus earlier this season, I don’t think we had the youngsters had that kind of playing time under their belt yet. So, it’s good to see guys maturing and getting better and better. They just need to keep working hard, stay humble and hopefully they can be successful for us.”
Credit to “The Youngsters”
I’m borrowing Brooks Lennon’s tagline for Atlanta’s record six homegrowns who played for them in last night’s game. But interestingly, with so many starting players missing for various reasons last night, Lennon had this to say about the difference on the training ground in Marrietta as the team prepared this past week:
“Our training this week was one of the best we’ve had all season. With the youngsters and the mentality, you know it was very competitive this past week. I’m happy for all those youngsters... that’s how you get your opportunity. You know, as a young guy you want to come and show the coach that you’re ready, especially when guys are away on International Duty. That’s why training had such a high intensity this past week and we want to keep it at that cause it’s really good to see you and it makes everyone better.”
First, I think many soccer fans jump the gun on the whole “Play the Kids” mantra that takes on a life of it’s own to the point where it becomes borderline agitprop. When you play young players, especially many of them together, they often get wrecked — at least more often than we’d like to think.
But in this case, it worked out well enough. Despite the reality that Atlanta outplayed NYCFC statistically, it wasn’t a scintillating display of attacking prowess. The play itself was actually mostly boring. But what wasn’t boring was to see the group of players never stop running and trying to get into advantageous positions on the field. It is clear that the kids making it through Atlanta’s lower ranks are well coached and have the understanding of how to make good things happen.
Sloppy goals conceded (especially early in halves)
cost the team a win
Everything that’s been stated in the 700 words above would make you think the team won. They should’ve won. But another goal conceded inside the first minute — the second time that’s happened in the last four games is brutal. And two times makes this particular stat a trend — one that needs fixing. Last night’s is hard to explain systematically. Atlanta’s CBs stepped up to win a second ball, didn’t, allowed Gutman to get into a 1v1 defending position, he allows the shot in, a shot that’s probably savable, but ultimately wasn’t. It’s the fourth goal Atlanta has conceded in the opening 15 minutes this year, which is tied for 3rd worst in MLS (Charlotte and Philly have allowed 5). However, Atlanta has a +3 GD in the first 15 minutes of games, so just saying “they’re not ready to play” is not a precise enough diagnosis of what is happening.
More concerning is actually the beginning of second halves coming out of the locker room. In the first 15 minutes in the second half, Atlanta has given up nine goals, which is the worst in MLS, and -4 GD in that interval.