5 thoughts on the Five Stripes: A mutual respect society develops

Mike Conti
April 17, 2018 - 10:49 am
Atlanta United defenders Julian Gressel and Leandro Gonzalez-Pirez

© Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports


It’s easy to get the feeling that Atlanta United and New York City FC have not seen the last of each other.  We know these sides will play a rematch in June at Yankee Stadium.  But it became very apparent as Sunday’s match worked its way to a tense conclusion that these sides appear destined to meet in the postseason.  Perhaps that meeting will come in the Eastern Conference Final.  Here are my five thoughts on Sunday’s entertaining match at Mercedes Benz Stadium:

1. This was a very good result.  I’ve heard some supporters remark that this was a disappointing draw.  If earning a draw against the deepest, (arguably) most talented team in MLS is a disappointment, then we are getting spoiled.  The reality is that both teams executed a well-played, technically sound, entertaining match that featured some really good defending, a number of attacks, and even some strong goal keeping.  Remember that Atlanta United was playing without Franco Escobar and Tito Viallba.  Ezekiel Barco is not yet fully fit, and clearly has some rust to shake off.  Even with Atlanta United not in their complete form, they had New York City trailing for nearly 30 percent of the match.  Keep in mind that NYC had only trailed in 18 percent of match time all season prior to Sunday.

2. Tata Martino did the right thing by not using his subs.  Jason Longshore and I got more than a few questions after the match as to why Tata left two substitutions in his pocket.  The fact is that Atlanta United was dominating the match in the final ten minutes, and the lineup on the pitch was more than capable of generating the game-winning goal against an opponent that was ducking and covering.  The only possible change Tata could have made was to sub on Romario Williams for Josef Martinez, but not pushing that button was understandable.  Atlanta United had three defensive subs (Zizzo, Robinson and Wheeler-Ominu) in the 18, and there was no reason to replace Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Michael Parkhurst nor Chris McCann.

3. Atlanta United continues to defend very well.  The Five Stripes’ streak of 233 minutes without conceding a goal came to an end Sunday when Michael Parkhurst gave up a penalty kick that was converted by David Villa.  The breakdown that led to the penalty kick was, in my mind, the only major defensive error of the game by Atlanta United.  Alexander Ring’s equalizer in the second half was simply a “tip your hat” goal to a very creative player.  The fact that Atlanta United held New York City, the top goal scoring side in MLS, to two goals even as they dominated possession, is encouraging.

4. Referee Alan Chapman got both major calls of the match correct.  I know there was some confusion over Darlington Nagbe’s goal being waived off in the 41st minute, because no signal was made by Chapman to use VAR.  Whether it was a result of communication from the VAR official, an assistant referee, or both, Chapman got the call correct.  Josef Martinez was clearly in an offside position and was at the very least screening New York City keeper Shawn Johnson.  That was an unfortunate error by Martinez, who has been called offside ten times this season, the most of any player in MLS.  On the Ring goal, there is the possibility that Villa may have been slightly offside (it was tight), but in any case Villa had no effect on the goal.  I know the outcome is frustrating to Atlanta United supporters, but the two most significant calls of the match certainly appeared to be accurate.

5. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez played his best match of the season.  He had a very solid tackle to blunt a scoring opportunity by Jo Inge Burget early in the match.  His passing and distribution to Gressel down the right flank was excellent.  He kept a calm head in a match that got physical at times.  Solid efforts like what we saw Sunday will make LGP a fixture in the lineup.  Now he needs to follow that up with a good performance on the road, and he will have his hands full Saturday against LA Galaxy.