It’s been a long four months, a really long four months. However, the absence of live sports is over, and we are getting back to normal little by little. Unfortunately, Atlanta United returned to their normal, losing once again to the New York Red Bulls by a score of 1-0. If I’m honest, the game was ugly and extremely tough to watch. The rust of four months of no action reared its ugly head a bit more than I had expected in what felt like a preseason match.
The game’s only goal occurred in the fourth minute when Florian Valot received a pass with no one around him in the middle of the field, was allowed to dribble straight at Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan and slot it home passed him. Red Bulls had several other chances in the game, but Guzan was called to action and succeeded with key saves to keep the game from being 3 or 4 to nothing. New York started the match with a very high press, closing down Atlanta early every time they got the ball. However, after the goal, Red Bulls were content to concede the majority of possession to Atlanta United and put 11 men behind the ball to defend and strike on the counter.
The five stripe’s best chance of the game came in the 41st minute when the 18-year-old, Atlanta grown youngster George Bello banged his shot from 16 yards out off the crossbar after stellar build-up play from the United midfield. Adam Jahn also forced Red Bulls goalkeeper Raagaard Jensen into a one-handed save deep into stoppage time on a header from an excellent cross played into the box. The stop was able to seal the victory for New York and put them temporarily atop group E.
As I said before, the game was horrid from top to bottom — lots of misplaced passes, botched shots, and several instances of ball watching on both sides. Atlanta was slow in most of their build-up play, and though they looked like the United we all know and love at times, they never found their rhythm. One thing that has to be mentioned is Atlanta’s back 3, and my goodness, they were awful. With Miles Robinson returning from injury, Fernando Mesa making his way into the side, and Franco Escobar shaking off his rust, the three CB’s looked very shaky. From the first goal where Mesa’s ball-watching led to a wide-open opportunity, to several instances where Miles Robinson simply could not get the ball cleared, the defending has to be better, and I am very confident it will.
Pity Martinez was Atlanta’s best player last night by far. He was creative, quick, explosive, and did well in creating chances for himself and his team. A spirited performance from goalkeeper Brad Guzan kept Atlanta in the game. Without a proven goal scorer, Atlanta needs to find an identity fast. They will have to be quicker and more creative in possession to create more goal chances. If Atlanta can only play well with Pity, Barco, AND Josef on the pitch, they will be in big trouble this upcoming year. I am also a big fan of Frank De Boer’s 3-4-3 formation. However, the two wide midfielders need to do a better job tracking back in the upcoming matches. Too many odd man or even man counterattacks from the Red Bulls early on led to many chances, and Atlanta should have been beaten by more than just a mere goal. United will have a golden opportunity for a win and to swing some momentum in their favor as they play FC Cincinnati Thursday morning.