MLS Focus: Atlanta United takes show on the road

Much has been made of how hard it is for visitors to play at Atlanta United's Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but the Five Stripes are becoming quite a force on the road.

Four days after its 2-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City -- just its second ever at Mercedes-Benz Stadium -- Atlanta United moved back into the top spot in the MLS Supporters' Shield race with a 2-1 win at Orlando City, the hottest team in MLS, for its fourth straight win on the road.

The four wins in five games -- Atlanta United opened the MLS season with a 4-0 loss at Houston -- match its win total on the road in its first MLS season.

“It’s very important, especially in a league where winning on the road is so difficult," said Atlanta United coach Tata Martino. "I think it’s really important and I think we’re deserving of it, and even more so coming off of a loss at home on Wednesday.

Two goals in the first half hour from Josef Martinez and Ezequiel Barco staked the Five Stripes to a 2-0 lead that Orlando could not overcome.

Martinez scored his league-high eighth goal of the season with a penalty kick in the 11th minute after Greg Garza was fouled by Cristian Higuita in the area. Barco's second career goal for Atlanta United was struck with the outside of his foot, ricocheting off the crossbar into the goal.



Like against Sporting KC, Martino employed a 3-5-2 formation at Orlando City so Atlanta United could press the opposition.

“The idea was to neutralize their attacking players," he said, "so we wanted to make sure that even when we had the ball, when we were in possession, when we were attacking, we always had their attacking players close to us, like [Justin] Meram, [Sacha] Kljestan, [Dom] Dwyer, [Chris] Mueller, just so we were always aware of those players so that they couldn’t hurt us if we lose the ball.”

Orlando City scored 17 goals in its last six games, all wins, but only Meram scored on Alec Kann, filling in for suspended Brad Guzan in goal and making his first appearance in 2018 after being sidelined with a knee injury.

"I thought I did pretty well," said Kann, who started in goal in 2017 until Guzan arrived from Middlesbrough in July. "A lot of playing goalkeeper for this team is being able to help us build out of the back. I think I helped us relieve pressure, helped us get out of their press, which was pretty high at the start and was high for most of the game."

Orlando City has a big advantage in corner kicks -- 9-1 -- but Kann handled what the Lions threw at him well.

"It was a difficult game," said Martino, "but I thought he did his job, especially with a lot of set pieces and a lot of corners that Orlando had. But I think you didn’t notice the length of time that he was out.”

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12 comments about "MLS Focus: Atlanta United takes show on the road".
  1. Wooden Ships, May 14, 2018 at 10:03 a.m.

    Watched the game, most of it. Really disappointed with some of the crowd. Doesn’t appear as if it’s a venue (how many others in MLS) where I would bring my wife, children and grandchildren. Are the fans mirroring some of the player gesticulations? Can’t remember if it was Johnson that dove in the box and went on a tirade. Sickening display. The modern soccer climate in the US seems raught with poor behavior, it’s an everyday occurrence in all levels of youth soccer. It’s having an effect on my enjoyment of the game. The referee society group page is filled with unbelievable behavior on the part of players, coaches and parents. The referees have my full support to try and curb this mess. Hopefully, Orlando’s diver is fined heavily. I’m also ready to start fining coaches for the conduct of their team. 

  2. P T replied, May 14, 2018 at 10:04 a.m.

    You mean ATLs diver

  3. Wooden Ships replied, May 14, 2018 at 11:30 a.m.

    He got carded, toward the end. I guess it was Atlanta.

  4. R2 Dad replied, May 15, 2018 at 11:01 a.m.

    Pretty soon referees are going to wear cameras like the police do.

  5. P T, May 14, 2018 at 10:03 a.m.

    MLS needs to review the flop that led to the PK by ATL.  Look at the video.

  6. Kevin Sims, May 14, 2018 at 9:26 p.m.

    Orlando City player took a dive late in the match and then acted as if the referee was insane. I never saw a definitive angle on the PK granted AUFC ... but I did see the defender mash his hand into the throat/face of the AUFC player ... how strongly & vigorously unknown.

  7. frank schoon, May 15, 2018 at 10:12 a.m.

    I watched part of the game didn't see all the goals. But notice  the second goal ,that was scored with the outside of the foot with the leg extended just enough to keep the ball from going way over the goal, LOOK at the POSITIONING of the defenders. This is why i'm such an antogonist about the flat back defense. Just look at the defenders, all running back towards the goal, all ball watching while outnumbering the opponents, with the closest attacker to the goal by 4v1, not including the goalie making it actually 5v1. But the worse is that all defenders are running backwards, like they were all tied to a rope( AC Milan with Sacci use to employ a rope, actually), created so much space behind them right in the penalty for the opponents to run into and score....this happens so often in games, where defenders all run backwards, not aware of what is coming up from behind and ball watch. 
    You notice the moment when a flatback defense run mindlessly backwards, everybody is on his own trying to keep the flatback shape, which results in no one giving leadership making the calls.
    This is why I hope soccer will go back to the libero, a la Beckenbauer, who leads and rules and anticipates what can happen by looking upfield. By the defenders all running backwards, creates a disadvantage positionwise because of their commitment going into one direction, making it advantageous for an attackwing crossing the ball curving away from the goalie. THere simply is no need to have so many  defenders run backwards when they don't even an opponent near them to cover.
    In sum I find the quality of defense has gone down in soccer. We have 4defenders all running in unison backwards without even having an opponent to cover , along with the current two center backs  lack the ball skills to move up on offense towards midfield to create midfield superiority. Can you imagine a player like Pogba playing as one the centerbacks and comes up with the ball towards midfield , what havoc it can cause to the opponents around midfield. This is why I'm looking forwards to having a sweeper with great ball skills to come back to soccer....

  8. Bob Ashpole replied, May 15, 2018 at 10:21 p.m.

    The lack of a designated sweeper is no excuse for poor tactics.

  9. frank schoon replied, May 16, 2018 at 9:47 a.m.

    Bob, to me a flatback defense is bad tactics , just like a flatback or square midfield line or frontline.
    You don't want a 3man frontline that is a flatline or square and neither should the backline. I've seen so many goals scored, consistently, like that second goal in this video. Why would 4 defenders need to run back  when they outnumber the opponents 4v1. So often you'll see one attacker break down the flank with 4 defenders running backwards for they want to keep the flatline shape. This is totally inefficient, for it means one opponent can influence 3 other defenders who as result give space away for opponents to run into. The other defenders, lets say 2 for you always want to outnumber the opponents by one man, in other words, if it's one attacker coming down the flank then there should be 2 defenders taking care of the situation and the other 2 should care of the space left behind.
    This is why Cruyff began playing 3-4-3 because you don't need 4 defenders when the opponents employ 2 strikers, in other words 3 defenders is enough. But today we employ 4 defenders as a unit regardless of the number of attackers up the front line.
    As a result of this inefficient type of defense, the midfielders are forced to make unnecessary runs backwards to cover the space left behind by the retreating defense which could have been covered by the two other defenders.
    This type of defense today has the effect making the centerbacks less skillsfull , less attack oriented for they don't come up to midfield with the ball creating a free or open man situation, a 2v1 situation which forces the opponent midfielders to adjust. 
    I would like to see the sweeper or libero come back or one of the centerback be a skillful player that come up on attack and who has also a better view of the field at any moment than the #6 the defensive midfielder...

  10. Bob Ashpole replied, May 17, 2018 at 2 a.m.

    Frank, a flat line (no depth) is bad tactics, but "flatback" defense refers to a line with 2 CBs sharing responsibility for cover and marking. It doesn't mean literally that the line plays flat. At least that is my understanding and the understanding of people I played with. 

    While I have used sweepers a lot, I favor using 2 CBs because this defensive organization is in theory quicker to adjust to a long pass switching the attack to the weak side. It may only save 8 or so yards of movement, but it makes a difference. Sometimes though, sweeper-stopper is a better fit for your personnel.

    I also think the better teams do adjust their shape and organization as circumstances change. Keep in mind that zone defenses are more prevalent today and players cover more ground. Both are reasons to defend in a line of 4 even if attacking players are temporarily withdrawn.  

  11. frank schoon replied, May 17, 2018 at 9:47 a.m.

    Bob, you may be right on the definition of the flatback defense, applying it to the 2 CB's ,therefore theoretically you're right, but in the practice it's not. Your definition is fine when the team is in ball possession but not in transistion during ball loss switching in a defensive mode , somehow the outside backs revert to a straight backline. This happens all the time during games. Just watch the next time, like in this video, how often the defensive line all run backwards and keep in a straight line.
    This situation happens in  reverse in a 4-4-2 midfield. This is why Cruyff never liked the playing 4-4-2, for although you have 4 midfielders in theory, in practice you basically have two. And this is why Cruyff always played with 3 midfielders against 4 opponent midfielders, for he knew , in theory ,on paper, he was outnumbered but in practice he would outnumber the opponents 3v2 around midfield, instead being outnumbered 3v4.. So many pro coaches questioned Cruyff's sanity of playing with one less midfielder than they have, but after he explained it they understood why and realized how wrong they were.
    Your preference for the 2 CB's because they organizationally adjust to a long paster faster, I disagree. By having a sweeper you do without that step for that is the job of the sweeper to take away the threat of the long ball. ...In other words by having a sweeper you need don't to organizie no matter how fast you organizie for the long pass for that is the sweepers job to take the long ball attack away.  But in effect we're actually arguing a mood point about organizing for the long ball by the CB's for in effect to stop the long ball is a job handled by the front line. Remember ,the first line of defense is the front line and the first line of attack is the back line/ goalie.
    NEXT POST...

  12. frank schoon replied, May 17, 2018 at 10:13 a.m.

    BOB, you mentioned long passes switching to weakside with CB's are quicker to adjust to it , I also disagree. Looking at the situation statically, perhaps,but this game has to be seen in a fluid situation, in other words, players need to read the game ahead of time and therefore anticipate before the actually switch of the field takes place. Remember that discussion I had with that coach who thought by his goalie throwing out the ball quickly as possible in the transistion to an open man, overlooked that I made my team, while on attack, have my players who are not directly involved to  cover any of the other opponent's who likewise were not directly involved thus obviating any quick counter attack initiated by their goalie. This should be seen in the same spirit of operation to obviate that weakside pass. Another problem with the weakside pass, it takes way too long, due to the distance of the ball traveling to the other side, and two, if for example the passes made from the left flank are usually done by a right footed player which takes more time for he has to turn with the ball first,and now likewise this situation is applicable to the left footed wing on the right side.
    True the zonal defense is more prevalent, as a result players cover more ground. I would say the midfielders are made to cover more ground because the inefficiency of the zonal system, especially when they all run back in unison even when some of the defender have no one to cover. But if you look at Barcelona, players like Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, were not made for lots of running, they played in a manner to run much less which is more efficient.  
    The only reason for having 4 defenders if the opponents have 3 attackers , otherwise you're wasting a man and therefore possible be outnumbered around midfield....

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