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The Atlanta Report 5/13

Updated: May 15, 2023



Matchday: 12 (5/13/23)

Opponent: Charlotte FC

Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Score: 1 - 3 (Purata - ‘86), (Meram - ‘18, ‘57; Swiderski - ‘52)

Updates: Franco Ibarra returns from concussion protocol. Giorgos Giakoumakis returns from injury and is listed on the bench.


Like Chickens Running Around with Their Heads Chopped Off

LINEUP

Atlanta went with a 4-2-3-1 formation. Changes from last week’s starting XI away at Inter Miami include Santiago Sosa dropping to the bench for Franco Ibarra, Luiz Araujo starting in place of Derrick Etienne Jr on the left wing, and Miguel Berry starting up top instead of Machop Chol.



FIRST HALF

Poor. If I had to sum up Atlanta’s first half performance against a team that’s sitting 12th in the East and that we beat rather comfortably away from home earlier this season in one word, it would be that - poor. As has been the pattern these past few games, Atlanta started off pretty strong. In the 7th minute, Caleb Wiley had a shot at goal which went over. In the 16th minute, Araujo had a golden opportunity. From near the center of the pitch, Thiago Almada passed the ball out to Brooks Lennon who made a beautiful forward pass around Charlotte centerback Sobocinski towards Araujo who ran in behind.


Araujo took a touch and shifted his body to try and curl the ball around Charlotte keeper Kahlina with his left foot, but failed to get it high enough over him. This was the first real sight of a goal for us, and Araujo should have done much better with it.

In the 17th minute, former Atlanta United winger Justin Meram crossed the ball in from the left side. He put too much on it, so it sailed over all the players in the box. His teammate Westwood chases the ball on the far side of the pitch and quickly receives the ball back after making a back pass to his right-back.


He crosses the ball back into the box and finds Meram at the back post who guides the ball into the back of Atlanta’s net with the inside of his right foot. Respectfully, he didn’t celebrate but had he, that would’ve been the least of my worries because that goal highlighted the disorganization in our defense.


We had a numerical advantage in the box, five to four, but both Purata and Robinson were practically marking the same man, forcing Lennon to mark Ben Bender and leave Meram all alone in the back post.


In the 36th minute, Atlanta had a half-chance with Almada slightly overhitting a pass over the top of Charlotte’s backline for Andrew Gutman who lunged for it but just couldn’t keep it in bounds. After that, Araujo and Gutman had a few chances, but none of them posed a real threat and tested the Charlotte keeper.



SECOND HALF

The second half is when things went from bad to worse for Atlanta. In the 48th minute, Charlotte played a long ball over the top to Swiderski, forcing Robinson into a foot race with the center forward. Robinson gets nudged away from the ball and falls, giving Swiderski the chance to send a low-driven cross into the 18-yard box. Charlotte forward Jozwiak tried to tap it in, but Gutman did enough to not give him any time, and he hit the ball at Westberg who made a quick save.


Apparently, Gutman did too much because he tugged the shirt of Jozwiak, and the referee saw that as a denial of a clear goal-scoring opportunity. As a result, Gutman got sent off, and Charlotte was awarded a penalty kick. Swiderski was the one who took it, and he didn’t fail to capitalize on the opportunity. He shot the ball low and into the right corner of the net, sending Westberg the wrong way. 2 - 0 Charlotte FC.



In the 57th minute, Jozwiak receives a through ball behind Atlanta’s backline and crosses the ball in, low on the ground, across the 18-yard box to, low and behold, Meram who runs late into the center of the box and taps the ball into the far post. What’s up with former Atlanta players scoring braces and their first goals of the season against us? Again, this is another all-around defensive error from Atlanta.


When Charlotte fullback Jaylin Lindsey receives the ball out wide, Wiley is forced to defend him and cover the space behind, which, obviously since he’s only one player, can’t do. This allows Jozwiak to exploit that fact and run in behind to receive the ball and get the cross off. On the other side of the pitch, Meram’s late run catches Lennon flat-footed as he seems to not expect it. This is just poor defending and a failure to read the game situation properly.



Being down 3-0 at home, Pineda knew he had to make some changes. He brought on Giakoumakis in place of Araujo at the 71st-minute mark as well as Matheus Rossetto for Miguel Berry. With Giakoumakis on, it didn’t take him long to make an impact. In the 81st minute, Almada crossed the ball in from a corner, and Giakoumakis flicked it back just wide of the goal, hitting the far post.


Atlanta was starting to show some signs of life and looked to retain whatever specks of pride they had left. In the 86th minute, Almada crossed the ball in again from another corner, and this time, the ball did find the back of the net due to a classic Purata header.


In the 88th minute, Swiderski played a delectable through ball to Brandon Cambridge on the far left side who hit it the first time but was wide of the goal. Going into stoppage time, both teams had a few more near chances but didn’t score. And that was the game in a nutshell. 3-1 final score.


ANALYSIS

So, why were we so pitiful? Well, there are many places I could start, but I’ll start with what I think is the most obvious reason: with Giakoumakis out, we lose three crucial things - a goal threat, a focal point, and our ability to press. It’s clear that Atlanta isn’t as much of a goal threat as of late. In this match, Charlotte’s expected goals(xG) was 2.3 whereas ours was merely 1.


The past 3 MLS games, which we’ve lost, Giakoumakis has not started and our xG has been consistently lower than our opponents. As it pertains to this match, it’s not that Charlotte had a higher XG because they had so many goal-scorers all over the park. In fact, in terms of players who had an xG higher than 0, Atlanta had 5 potential goal scorers while Charlotte only had 3. It’s the quality of the goal scorers that matters.


The Atlanta United player with the highest XG was, believe it or not, Giakoumakis with 0.3. It tells you something about a team when a player comes on to play for a little over half an hour and still has a higher XG than every other player on the pitch playing 90 mins. Charlotte on the other hand had Meram with an xG of 1.1 and Swiderski with an xG of 0.8. The fact that Charlotte actually had players who are meant to score goals made a huge difference as to why the result was the way it was.


Without Giakoumakis, we lose a focal point. This goes back to the issue of not having a goal-scorer. Our crosses never seem to have a purpose behind them. Either Lennon crosses the ball in and it fails to reach the head of an Atlanta attacker, or Wiley is blindly crossing the ball low on the ground hoping it reaches a teammate.


When we attack, it seems as though we don’t have a plan for the actual execution of our chances which is why we see such little end product. At some points in the game, it honestly looked like we were just kicking the ball around with no real build-up happening. There was no strategy, no game plan, and no control.


Lastly, without Giakoumakis we lose our press. When Giakoumakis was fit, our press started with him. Being the hard worker he is, he wasn’t giving defenders the time of day on the ball. We don’t have that with Chol or Berry up top. Because of this, opposing defenders get too much time on the ball and can pick out nice passes. We’re forced to start our press in the midfield but by then, there’s too much movement by the opposing team that it’s hard to contain.


This is unlike Charlotte who was pressing heavily and forcing us to make mistakes. Their press wasn't even that good - oftentimes, they’d send two men to double team a fullback but not have a full-on team press. It was just that our team shape with the ball was so poor that we didn’t give the man on the ball any options to pass to.


You can see the state of each team’s press by looking at the stats. Atlanta had a total of 5 defensive tackles attempted, successfully completing 3. Charlotte, however, had a total of 14 tackles and completed 8. Charlotte had 2 successful tackles in their attacking 3rd while Atlanta had none. Clearly, our press needs improvement.

Lastly, individual mistakes cost us. Lennon needs to improve his defensive awareness. Two of his mistakes led to goals by Meram. You could blame the very first goal on the entire backline, but still, better communication needs to be happening. Almada is a great player, but he tries to force it too much. He attempted 6 take-ons and only managed to pull it off three times.


When he’s giving the ball away half the time whenever he tries to get past an opponent, he can put our defenders in trouble, especially when the team and fullbacks are advanced and in attack mode. Araujo should have made a better effort at his initial chance on goal early in the game. Again, his impact on the team has been minimal so far this season

Overall, Atlanta needs to show some organization and structure. These past few games, we’ve shown very little fight and hunger. We shouldn’t wait until after conceding 3 goals at home and going a man down to start playing something that nearly resembles respectable soccer. We’re supposed to be better than that. Giakoumakis seems to be getting healthier, so hopefully he’ll be able to start the next match. And hopefully, we can find our form again, the form we had at the very beginning of the season.

Do you think Atlanta United have what it takes to contend for the MLS Cup?

  • Yes

  • No

  • Not sure yet


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