Much to say, so few words to say it in. In short, Atlanta United knows how to keep us on the edge of our seats. This Saturday was no different, demonstrating once again that until the final whistle sounds, the pitch remains an open canvas for United to paint. Granted, the finished product may not always be a masterpiece, but suitable wall art nonetheless.
It became apparent early on that at times our back line can become somewhat of a liability. Whether it’s sloppy marking, poor spacing, or gifting away possession, things have to tighten up. Expectations of a playoff run loom large for the 5 stripes, and without an organized defense to compliment their dynamic offense, a deep run seems unlikely.
No, our defense is not entirely to blame, as our offense also seems to be missing that final touch of class that had made it so prolific throughout earlier stretches of the season. Our two goals, although impressive, seemed rather fortuitous, lacking the assertiveness that typically characterizes the build up and result of a United attack. Philly has to take some of the credit, though. Sound marking and a tight back line made it difficult for playmakers like Almiron, Martinez, and Villalba to create space for themselves, even with a man up.
Tata Martino made it clear when he first arrived that his teams play quick, decisive passing futbol, and that nothing would change with United. Yet possession alone does not win you matches, and similar to our loss in D.C., long spells of unproductive possession plagued our attack. I’m the first person to say that having the ball is a key factor in determining a match, but only if it leads to opportunities. Although Philadelphia did park the bus for much of the game, Atlanta’s offense struggled to string together passes and produce chances.
Several exciting finishes highlighted United’s resolve, but also demonstrate a lack of consistency throughout the ninety that must be addressed. They need to stay focused and organized in the back and use possession as a method to create, not to maintain. The international break will prove an interesting test of just that. We have the necessary tools to create something beautiful on a weekly basis, but consistency will be the ultimate determinant of our success. After all, why waste time making wall art when you can paint masterpieces?