Major League Soccer debuted a pair of new teams over the weekend. Atlanta United and Minnesota United both played their first ever games and both fell to established MLS opponents. This comes as no surprise, only three MLS expansion teams have won their first ever game.
Grading Atlanta United and Minnesota United After One Week
The two sides lost in completely different fashion. Atlanta managed to score first in their clash with New York Red Bulls before collapsing in the second half. Minnesota was down two goals before their maiden goal crossed the line and they ended up getting smacked by a trio of late Portland Timbers goals.
Atlanta United Collapses in Second Half
Atlanta looked like an experienced MLS side for the first half of their game agaisnt New York Red Bulls. They had great play out wide with full backs Tyrone Mears and Greg Garza playing well at both ends of the pitch. Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez looked speedy and efficient with their runs through the middle. Goal scorer Yamil Asad was more than effective at along the left wing. They controlled much of the game and were able to outshoot the Red Bulls 7-2 in the first 45 minutes.
Then half time came and went. New York manager Jesse March made the right adjustments at the break and came out with a side that was more tactically able to break down an Atlanta defense that had been playing pretty well. Possession went from 61% in Atlanta’s favor to the Red Bulls owning 52% for the second half. Shots were equal at seven each, but the Red Bulls were of better quality.
The first goal was the first major Atlanta breakdown. Poor defensive play on a corner allowed Daniel Royer to completely out jump Sean Davis. Before this goal, the Red Bulls had done nothing in open play. They were able to pull through on a set piece, which seemed to open things up afterwards.
The second goal was scored thanks to poor defensive awareness and communication. Mike Grella, darting into the penalty area, drew a defender and allowed Kemar Lawrence to overlap and get a cross in. Bradley Wright-Phillips was well covered, but freshly inserted Anton Walkes could only clear the ball into his own net.
After the goal, Atlanta’s breakdown continued with a silly red card, poor passing, and over aggressive play. The poor behavior of the fans at some of the officiating only contributed to the atmosphere of demise.
Overall, Atlanta was handed a tough opening match to the MLS existence. Sure, they were at home, but any time the Red Bulls come to town you know it’s going to be a difficult game. They held their own for over an hour before they were finally unlocked, but they will need to do better to keep things together (both on the pitch and in the seats) if they want to live up to their high expectations.
Overall Grade: B
Minnesota United Starts and Finishes Slow
Minnesota United had the tougher of the two opening week assignments. They had to go to one of the more hostile stadiums in the country to take on a much improved Portland Timbers attack. This is a tough task for a team that was not build for immediate success.
Their first half wasn’t all that bad, to be honest. They won the possession battle even though they didn’t do much with what they had. They held the Timbers to only five total shots and Portland’s feared attack wasn’t able to do anything special. The goal came on a set play that wasn’t a display of pristine defense. However, Lawrence Olum’s finish was not easy. Goalkeeper John Alvbage did come off his line a little too aggressively and there was nobody behind him to guard the back post. Olum still did not get a good shot away and the ball more or less wafted into the net.
The second half was where things went wrong. Portland front six came alive like they hadn’t all game. Poor marking on Diego Valeri allowed him to head a cross home for the second goal. The third was a disastrous penalty against Vadim Demidov. He hauled Fanendo Adi in the penalty area to give Valeri his second of the night from the spot. The flood gates opened after that and the defense looked flat footed as Adi ran through them twice in stoppage time for the finishing touches on the 5-1 scoreline.
The bright spot was the appearance of Christian Ramirez, who scored Minnesota’s first goal. His finish was superb. He fired through two defenders with lots of pace and gave Jake Gleeson no chance to make a save. It will be interesting to see what he does should he get a full 90 minutes of action.
Minnesota United really did not have a great game. Their first half was better, but they still went down a goal without threatening to score themselves. Their collapse came hard and fast after they were given a little breath of life with a goal. It was an ugly performance, but a lot of it came after the result had already been secured. That said, they still got throttled.
Overall Grade: C