Updated: Jul 28
Just as a stretch of good form including an away win was starting to instill confidence, Atlanta reverted back to typical sloppiness and coughed up two losses 2-1. This loss to Orlando was particularly poor, though, because Atlanta never really looked like they were going to win. Against New England, Atlanta was able to create 5 big chances and just couldn't manage to score. While not good, that is far better than this game in which we only managed two and less than one xG and xGOT.
If the idea of Atlanta having trouble connecting passes and being sharp was in any way unpredictable it would be reasonable to write this off to tired legs. Playing 3 games and traveling thousands of miles in a week is really tough, but this is textbook Atlanta United recently. While we complete most of our passes, the balls that would be dangerous and put us into attacking situations are poor far too often. For example, Caleb Wiley has been great all season down the wing but we lack the ability to play accurate long balls. Several times this game he received passes that required three or four touches to settle.
This little bit is what keeps us from being a really strong team. For instance, Atlanta had a great play starting from the back at 8:20. The play starts by circulating the ball around the back. Then the ball comes to Chol who beats his man and plays a great through ball to Lennon in space. This is the kind of play we need to be a dangerous team.
In the end, Berry passes the ball back out to Lennon who plays a nice cut back across the goal. Unfortunately, nobody was there to convert because we really should have scored, and it is hard to think Giakoumakis wouldn't have he had been playing.
Back to the Basics
While similar to sloppiness, this also deserves its own thought. Atlanta's attack would be far more dangerous if we could successfully implement very basic attacking ideas: Give-and-Gos, through balls, long balls. Atlanta's attack has some talent and pace but still hasn't fully clicked. There are so many times when Atlanta has the opportunity for a give and go or even just a little through ball for Wiley only for us to decide to pass the ball backwards or horizontally. This is so frustrating because Atlanta has the ability to be dangerous if we started looking for these little forward passes. For instance, in this play, Almada just knocks the ball on for Wiley. This allows him to make a 30+ yard run unchallenged because his man stepped up to Almada.
This is so frustrating to me because it feels so imminently doable, and it isn't just these little attack-minded passes. Atlanta also could benefit from more long balls. Wiley, Lennon, and Chol are all very fast and if you watch they are all constantly making runs off their defenders' shoulders that rarely get fed--even Berry makes these runs.
We need some Roster Management
Last but not least, sometimes the most obvious statements need to be said-the team's best players are important. In this game, Giakoumakis had a limited impact from his injury and Robinson was forced to rest after rejoining the team following the U.S.'s Gold Cup run. Atlanta also is going to miss Ibarra as the midfield looks considerably weaker without a good enforcer-type defensive midfielder. Ibarra was the only one of Atlanta's six central midfielders to really secure a consistent starting spot. This was made even more apparent against Orlando as Pineda chose to fully replace his original midfield pairing of Sejdic and Sosa with Rossetto and Alonso. For Atlanta to be successful in the end of the season, Pineda will have to figure out the midfield. In addition, Atlanta still has a DP slot and could greatly benefit from another attacker to take some of the pressure off of Giakoumakis and Almada.