If you’re an Atlanta United fan, it probably hasn’t set in yet that your team has played three games and gained zero points. Not only is it crazy to think about, it’s pathetic, especially considering one of those losses was to possibly the weakest team in the league, FC Cincinnati.
In their third and now final game in the MLS is Back tournament, Atlanta United again put in another less than stellar performance in a loss to Columbus Crew Tuesday night. Atlanta is now officially the only team to fail to net a goal in the tournament, and are one of a few so far to fail to win a game. It’s also worth noting that they lost all three matches by a score of 1-0.
I feel like a broken record, saying the same things repeatedly, but it’s the same poor quality with the same result every game. The match started very tactically, with neither side gaining an advantage in the first ten minutes or so. Then, after a couple of good chances were missed by Columbus, the sloppy red and black back three finally caved when Crew forward Youness Mouhktar found the breakthrough, surging right past the heart of three Atlanta United players around the ball.
— Columbus Crew SC (@ColumbusCrewSC) July 22, 2020
From there, it was more of the same — a decent bit of possession, but no real threat of scoring. The second half started to look a tad bit better as Frank De Boer brought on Jon Gallagher, who is listed as an attacking midfielder on the roster, to play left center-back. Adam Jahn was also subbed off after halftime for Eric Remedi. Jahn may have had about ten touches on the ball. That’s probably being generous, though. As far as the rest of the match goes, the first 10-15 minutes of the second half was lively from the five stripes. However, tired legs soon set in, and Columbus was able to put enough people behind the ball to keep Atlanta comfortably out of their 18-yard box, hanging on for their third win out of as many games
In reality, I’m glad Atlanta went on and got eliminated. They definitely would not have survived another round. If I sounded like I was struggling for things to talk about in the match recap, I was. The game was boring. There was no creativity in the final third at all for Atlanta. No movement, slow passing, and terrible spacing made for another poor performance by the 2018 champions.
One big problem is the numbers Atlanta puts forward in their attack. When Atlanta had possession in the final third, there were several times that players like Escobar, Robinson, Mesa, Gallagher, etc. were all in the picture trying to get forward. That doesn’t work in a back three and shows a lack of understanding for the formation. A three center-back system usually gives the two wide midfielders freedom to become “box to box.” They go forward in the attack, but they also have a crucial role in defending because there are no wide defenders. So, when the two wide midfielders are attacking and possession is lost, there must be players back to defend a counter-attack.
There were many times throughout the game where one or two of the so-called “center-backs” for Atlanta were caught way too high up the pitch with the wide midfielders, and there was no one there to bail them out when possession was lost. The lack of understanding extended to the midfield as well. Bello and Lennon constantly ball watched and failed to track back several times.
In short, Atlanta United is unorganized, slow, and dysfunctional. For the record, I am not to the point of wanting Frank De Boer out yet, especially with this being Atlanta’s first three games in four months. However, changes need to be made, and if De Boer can’t figure this out soon, he will quickly be on the hot seat, especially with this club’s high expectations.