5 Five Stripes Thoughts: Missed chances loom large in road draw

Mike Conti
May 31, 2018 - 11:29 am
Atlanta United FC midfielder Ezequiel Barco

© Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

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There were more than a few opportunities Wednesday night for Atlanta United to secure a road victory Wednesday night in New England. But Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner had other ideas; and that, combined with an ill-timed penalty to Kevin Kratz late in the match, forced the Five Stripes to settle for a 1-1 draw.

If the glass is half full, Atlanta United is now unbeaten in five straight road matches. If the glass is half-empty, they now only have one win in their last four matches. Here are my five thoughts on what’s going to be a busy weekend for Atlanta United:

1. Josef Martinez had his best match of the year, even without scoring a hat trick. Martinez took advantage of some shoddy defending to score his league-leading ninth goal of the year, but, to me, Martinez was at his best Wednesday night in the build-up. For example, he sent a beautiful ball down the left wing in the second half to spring Almiron on a breakaway, that sadly was not converted. Several times, it was Martinez creating chances as opposed to being on the finishing end. Considering the workload that is ahead, it was also advantageous to get him out of the matcg before full time to buy him a few precious minutes of rest. I don’t expect Josef to play against Charleston, but even four matches in 17 days is a lot.

2. It is absolutely not time to panic.  I saw this line a few times on Twitter after the match and it made me cringe. Altanta United absolutely controlled the match Wednesday night and had plenty of good chances to ice it. They were not wasting chances in the same way that Gabriel Somi did for the Revolution. Matt Turner simply stole it. Barco didn’t blow it when Turner perried his shot off the crossbar, Turner was simply better. It’s one of the cruelties of soccer, especially when it feels like it happens so often to Atlanta United. But if we’re complaining about road draws, even if it should have been a win, we are getting way too spoiled. As Jason Longshore points out, Atlanta United is still on pace to surpass Toronto’s point total from last year.

3. VAR was used correctly on the Kratz penalty.  If MLS fans, coaches and players have been upset about the use of VAR to deal with errors that were not “clear and obvious,” then they have to accept the lack of a review on the takedown of Kriztian Nemeth in the 88th minute Wednesday night. Was it a soft penalty? Probably. Nemeth had his back to goal, and was 15 yards away from the net. There was no imminent goal. But it was also a judgement call, and in my mind, the fewer judgement calls that go to VAR, the better.  The lack of a penalty on what could have been a goal by Mikey Ambrose in the 54th minute was frustrating. It probably merited a look by the VAR; however, watching it live, Jason and I did not initially think it was a penalty. Only after seeing a slow motion replay did it become clear. I am not sure if that constitutes a clear and obvious error.

4. Almiron versus Philadelphia Union could be a lot of fun. The Union are in great recent form, getting results in their last four matches with three wins. But if they have a possible vulnerability, it’s their youth on the back line. They start Auston Trusty and Mark McKenzie, a pair of 19-year-old center backs. While Trusty and McKenzie are more than capable l, I think there is a great opportunity for olayers like Almiron to go right at them. Almiron missed some opportunities Wednesday to convert some beautiful chances. Let’s see if that changes Saturday night.

5. There’s no reason not to be confident, but you really need a win on Saturday.  Extenuating circumstances (VAR) aside, Atlanta United has lost two straight matches at home, a trend that they absolutely must reverse if they have aspirations to win the Supporters’ Shield. And with ominous road games ahead at New York City (small pitch) and Columbus (hottest club in the league), dropping points at home Saturday is simply not an option. The return of Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and possibly Tito Villalba will help, as will the energy of a sell-out crowd and an open roof at the Benz.  If Atlanta United plays as well as they did Wednesday night at New England, they have an excellent opportunity to get that victory.