Matchday: 11 (5/6/23)
Opponent: Inter Miami CF
Stadium: DRV PNK Stadium
Score: 2 - 1 (Gutman - ‘90+2), (Martinez - ‘59, ‘75)
Updates: Quentin Westberg returns after suffering from a knee injury. Franco Ibarra is out because of concussion protocol. Giakoumakis is still out with a hamstring injury.
Oh, The Irony
As expected by now, Gonzalo Pineda rolled out his usual 4-2-3-1 lineup. Quentin Westberg returned from his injury and started in goal. The backline remained unchanged. Santiago Sosa and Amar Sejdic played as the double-pivot in the midfield. Thiago Almada played in front of them as the attacking midfielder. Caleb Wiley and Derrick Etienne Jr played on the wings. With Giakoumakis still injured, Machop Chol was called up to lead the offense as the #9.
In the first half, Atlanta played well. The attack seemed to have improved compared to last week. The first chance of the game fell to Derrick Etienne Jr when Wiley intercepted a Miami back pass and flicked it over to Etienne Jr who brought it down with his chest, quickly spun to face the goal, and let the shot off. It was aimed straight at the Miami keeper, Drake Callender, who made a rather comfortable save.
Honestly, Etienne Jr had more time than he realized, as the closest Miami defender was moving away from him to cover the goal, giving him the opportunity to take an extra touch and pick a better spot. But given the fast-paced nature of the moment, it’s understandable why he decided to just touch and shoot.
In the 36th minute, Sosa made a poor decision to try to backheel the ball to center back Miles Robinson behind him. He got the pass wrong, giving the ball to 18-year-old Miami forward, Benjamin Cremaschi, who was defended well enough by Sosa who tracked back to prevent him from shooting the ball.
The ball fell kindly to Leonardo Campana who tried to chip the ball over Westberg, but Westberg was able to grab it out of the air. Near the end of the first half, Cremaschi had a decent chance as he was left unguarded at the near post on a Miami corner. He got under the ball too much and looped it over the crossbar for an Atlanta goal kick.
In the minute of stoppage time given, Almada pulled off a beautiful Cruyff turn, getting past two Miami players. His end product wasn’t nearly as good as the initial skill, as he misplaced his pass out to the left side, and it rolled out for a Miami goal kick. That was the end of the first half.
None of the action came until the 57th minute when the king himself, Josef Martinez,
came onto the pitch. A minute later, Miami crossed the ball in from a corner set piece.
Westberg punched it out, and it fell to Miami midfielder, David Ruiz, at the top of the 18-
Ruiz took a heavy touch into the box, and Chol made a very clumsy decision to try
to win the ball and completely body-checked Ruiz in the box. The referee didn't hesitate to
give Miami a penalty, and of course, that meant that the Atlanta legend, Josef Martinez, had
a chance to score on his former team.
From the penalty spot, Martinez coolly slotted the ball into the bottom right corner to beat Westberg. I could almost chuckle when I saw that in real-time. What are the odds that Josef scored his first goal of his season with a new team against the very one he helped bring many trophies and awards?
In the 75th minute, Atlanta conceded a second goal due to rather class-play from Miami’s offense. Miami played the ball out to American international DeAndre Yedlin on the right side whose touch took it over Gutman, allowing Yedlin to drive inside. Martinez makes an intelligent run in behind the two center halves who don’t follow his run. Yedlin plays a through ball, splitting Atlanta’s backline. Martinez gets to the ball, and like a true striker, rolls the ball past Westberg to put Miami up two.
Things started to look as if Atlanta may have had a chance to come out of Fort Lauderdale with a point when Miami player Franco Negri was sent off for a dangerous challenge on Sosa. The two players were going for a fifty-fifty ball when Negri slid in with studs showing. The ref initially gave him a yellow card, but after video review, it got upgraded to a red.
With Miami a man down, Atlanta started to push a little more with their offense. In the 91st minute, Gutman had a shot on goal when he hit a volley after Lennon crossed it to him. Callender saved it. In the 92nd minute, Atlanta had a corner, and Lennon crossed the ball in, and Gutman headed it into the back of the net from the near post for an Atlanta goal. Atlanta pressed for an equalizer, but just could not find one by the time the ref blew his whistle to end the game.
At first Atlanta’s attack seemed to be rather lively. Early on, there was lots of movement from the players, and players all over the pitch seemed to pose a threat when Atlanta was in possession and on the attack. However, over the course of the game, that noticeably declined. Having Chol play up top just isn’t working. He has little experience and is not at that level yet to be a dependable goal-scorer for Atlanta.
He doesn’t show any real bite and doesn’t pose any real threat to the opposition’s defense except, maybe, on set pieces. He also doesn’t lead the press as well as Giakoumakis does and doesn’t seem as fast or strong. Atlanta needs to work on not giving away cheap fouls.
There were many times our players, especially our backline, gave away fouls and set pieces. Robinson came in with a risky tackle that could have been a yellow. There was also one instance when Lennon held a player back who tried to get past him on the sideline, earning himself a yellow. It was rather unnecessary since both Purata and Robinson were back to defend. Mental discipline needs to be an area of focus for the team.
Almada and Araujo tend to play individualistically too often. I get that, especially for Almada, it’s their job to create and that they’re attack-minded, but playing too individualistically is not how you win games, and it’s not how teams contend for the MLS Cup. That being said, the team needs to work with Almada more to give him options, and not force him to try and take matters into his own hands.
Atlanta looked gassed. By the 65th minute, I noticed that the team looked very tired and lackadaisical. I don’t know why that is. Every other team plays as often as we do, yet other teams seem to play more livelier and with more energy and intensity. We should be playing like that, too. We played like that in the first couple games of the season.
Overall, things still seem to not be looking good for Atlanta. With injuries, poor individual form, and a poor mentality, we’ve already started to slip in the still early season. We play Charlotte FC at home next week, so, hopefully, the team can get back to the basics and start seeing results again.