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Two thoughts on Atlanta United’s miraculous 0-0 draw against LAFC

Brad Guzan redemption arc!

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Los Angeles FC Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Guzan earned Atlanta United a point

We’ll discuss later, but Atlanta United was nowhere near good enough to earn three points on the road against LAFC Wednesday night. Hell, even a draw is an audacious result, but it was only possible due to the heroics of Brad Guzan, who came back from one of his worst performances in an Atlanta United shirt to give one of his best between the sticks. It wasn’t until sometime in the second half where I realized “oh, he’s just going to stop everything tonight.”

What’s funny is that his first save of the night was actually pretty shaky. An LAFC player shot from distance after one of many Atlanta United giveaways. The came right at Guzan, but he was unable to corral it and awkwardly spilled a catchable save to the side. Fortunately, no opponent was in the area and the ball went out of play. But even though it wasn’t the cleanest save, it was a moment that gave some confidence and, in my opinion, allowed Guzan a chance to engage and understand the speed of the particular game. From there, things steadily progressed in terms of his observable comfort in dealing with some of the chances he faced. By the end of the game, he was saving everyone’s ass.

This is a great moment and certainly helps Atlanta United. I was very critical of Guzan after his rough performance against New England, but I can’t say I’m completely surprised that a competitor like Guzan is would come back like he did from such a low moment. Having said all this, it does not change my opinion about Atlanta predicament at the position overall. They need a long term solution at the position, and I think doing that in the coming summer window (as opposed to the offseason) would offer the team the best chance to compete for a trophy this season.

Atlanta United struggles under high-pressure opponents

What was once a strength of Atlanta United in a bygone era — playing right through teams that stretch their defensive shape and play higher up the field — is now one of it’s biggest weaknesses. Atlanta has looked it’s best this season against teams that set up in a deep block in front of their own goal and allows Atlanta to come onto them. We most often see it at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where visitors prioritize protecting their own net and try to hit Atlanta on the break.

When teams apply pressure — specifically rushing beyond Franco Ibarra to close down the two center backs, you might as well cue up Yakety Sax. It can be almost comically bad at times, and it was last night. Sloppy passing led to 8 interceptions for LAFC in the first half alone, which is more than Atlanta over the entirety of the 90 minutes. And while the teams split possession evenly in the game, two-thirds of LAFC’s passes were happening in Atlanta’s half, while only one-third of Atlanta’s were happening in LA’s. What this led to was constant pressure on Guzan and Atlanta’s goal all night, as where Atlanta hardly had a sniff at goal all game, registering just 4 shots, two of which came in the games final moments.

One last thing, look right here