Analysis: Atlanta United (a). Another Failed Papi Special.
Regular readers will know the disdain I have for Atlanta United FC. They're the very epitome of a plastic franchise. Quite happy to buy their way to success in a rented NFL stadium, whilst lauding it over everyone else. Being a soccer fan is a right of passage. You have to ride the rough with the smooth. They only want the smooth.
I spent most of Sunday feeling rather unwell, but Mauricio Pereyra's sublime first half free-kick gave me brief jou. Rocco Rios Novo had an absolute stinker. He clearly wasn't paying attention, didn't hear the whistle and Pereyra made him pay. But that was as good as it got
I wasn't a fan of how we approached the game. We were too timid, and seemed to have every intent of playing a Papi special. There's a time and a place for that, and at 1-0 against a team with 3 wins in 14, and said team is your rival... That's not the time or the place. Atlanta had more and more joy, as the game wore on, pressing Orlando. The Lions needed to widen the pitch with Jake Mulraney and Facundo Torres, play quicker and through the lines. Instead they just invited the press. We weren't aggressive enough and a better team would've destroyed us.
A Papi special against a poor Atlanta is not the way.
Din Djarin would not say this is the way. I mean, it clearly isn't. Orlando City have a -10 GD in the last 30 minutes of games. So why? WHY? Do we keep trying to hold out for a Papi special, without even trying to kill the game off? It's patently obviously that we cannot see these games out, so why don't we be a little more aggressive, and try to secure the win that way? We might solve some of our attacking issues if we actually, you know, attacked every now and then.
I am well aware we haven't been very creative this season, but I honestly think a lot of that is because we don't even try. We just drop deeper and deeper, and deeper after a goal. Look at our tackle positioning matrix (second half), relevant to the Plastic's (figure 1). We spent the entire half sat on the edge of our own area. There was zero pressure being put on the ball when it was in Atlanta's half. Between Mauricio Pereyra's excellent first-half goal and Alexandre Pato's late effort (that hit the post), there was a whopping 83 minutes. We went 83 minutes without a shot. We finished the game with an XG of 0.24. Atlanta, by comparison had a rating of 2.19 (figure 3). Atlanta significantly outplayed us, and the stats accurately reflect just how much (figure 2).
And I hate saying this, but they deserved to win. They were a hairs breadth of the goal post and a number of Pedro Gallese stops away from doing so.
Oscar Pareja said, after the game, that they were working on improving their attacking output. But how long has that been the case? It's not like we just couldn't get things moving. There was a conscious, tactical, decision made to drop deeper and deeper. His post game comments (bottom of this post) certainly reflect this. We just dropped deeper, as the game went on. Consciously. They weren't pinning us back. It was maddening, against a poor Atlanta side. After a 10th minute goal! Make it, make sense!
We also seem, completely allergic to having too many creative influences on the field at the same time. Pato was sat on the bench until the 86th minute. It's obvious to me, that both Ercan Kara and Tesho Akindele struggle as lone strikers. So why do we persist? That's another sign of our tactical inflexibility. We absolutely will not move away from 4-2-3-1. A 4-2-3-1 which was a 4-4-1-1 for most of the game, by the way, because we were so deep. Fine. But have the 3 as Facu, Mauricio and Pato. Give all 3 the freedom to work drift close and play off of the central striker.
Kara gave us nothing on Sunday, but in fairness to him, he was always on an island. Mulraney and Torres never got close to him. And that's a tactical decision, look at the team's passing network graphic in figure 4. They're not allowed to drift. Everyone must stay in position. And you know what? It's bloody awful to watch.
Figure 1 shows Orlando's tackle positioning matrix, second 45.
Figure 2 shows Orlando's overall statistics (right), vs Atlanta's.
Figure 3 shows Orlando's XG statistics vs. Atlanta's.
Figure 4 shows Orlando's passing network graphic graphic, whole 90.
Again, the only reason we come away from the game with anything is because of El Pulpo. Last week I kept saying 'pay the man'. But is he going to want to stay, if it's all on his shoulders all the time? He's heading into the twilight of his career, and he probably wants to win things. And there's no chance of that happening here, with the way we approach games. Yeah, we might win the US Open Cup this season. But that, for me, would paper over some pretty huge cracks. If he wanted to leave I honestly wouldn't blame him.
Gallese -9- Only reason we got anything.
Ruan -5- Had a chance to win it late on, and seems to have 0 self belief.
Jansson -7- Didn't give much away.
Schlegel -7- Same as Jansson. Can't ask for more really.
Smith -6- Was a lot more solid than last week.
Urso -6- Got about well, but was hindered by the lack of movement ahead of him.
Araujo -6- Broke up play well.
Torres -7- Did everything he could but was often isolated.
Pereyra -7- Sweet goal.
Mulraney -6- Must've wished he had stayed in Atlanta.
Kara -5- Did he even play?
Akindele -6- Kara was ineffective and so was Tesho. When the same things happen to two players, maybe it's time to change the system.
Pato -7- Almost won the game.
Michel -6- Ugh.
Perea -6- Came on to just bunker.
Antonio Carlos -6- Came on too bunker and lost his man for the goal.
Head Coach Oscar Pareja:
“A great point for us. [I’m] very proud of the work the players did on the field. Obviously there’s a lot of things that we would like to get better, but in this stage of the season, this amount of games, the point is very valuable for us against a rival that, especially in the second half, with the control they had and us not being able to keep the ball away from those attacking sides, I’m very proud of the players. I think we have a group that is connected and we know where we are going and we accept the point today and we’ll take it.”
Top player image and cover image courtesy of Orlando City SC.
Post match media availability footage courtesy of Orlando City SC.