Atlanta United Outlasts Colorado Rapids: Three Things I Noticed

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June 24, 2017 - Atlanta's Josef Martinez (7) settles a pass during a match between Atlanta United and the Colorado Rapids on June 24, 2017 at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field in Atlanta, GA. Atlanta United FC defeated Colorado Rapids 1-0. (Getty Images/Icon Sportswire)

Editorial (June 27, 2017) – Atlanta United FC defeated the Colorado Rapids 1-0 this past weekend. Josef Martinez had the game’s only goal.

Atlanta United Outlasts Colorado Rapids: Three Things I Noticed

Atlanta recovered well after losing a midweek game at D.C. United. The Rapids are 0-7-0 on the road in MLS play, the only team without a road point this year. Here’s three big takeaways from the match.

Greg Garza Facilitated The Offense

The two coaches handled midweek action very differently. Tata Martino made only one chance to his Starting XI from Wednesday to Saturday. Meanwhile, Pablo Mastroeni made several chances, including starting a reserve backline. Colorado’s defensive system is built to neutralize star No. 9 and No. 10 players. Look at their recent game against the Portland Timbers. Diego Valeri and Fenando Adi were kept off the scoresheet, but Sebastian Blanco ran wild.

Enter Greg Garza, a mobile and fast outside back. The Rapids were able to swarm Miguel Almiron and keep Josef Martinez from getting too many chances in the first half. With the defense preoccupied with Atlanta’s dangerous front four, Garza was able to get behind and create chances. This helped wear down the defense that ultimately gave up the goal and several late chances.

Collective Errors Are Costing Colorado Defensively:

The Rapids defense has been stout for much of this season. But they have a recent habit of collective breakdowns. It has cost them goals, including against Atlanta. Colorado isn’t giving up goals from golazos or being totally picked apart (though Atlanta took them apart at times on Saturday). They have a play where three or four players make a mistake, making it easy on the opponent.

First on the goal, Mekeil Williams gets juked by Brandon Vazquez, allowing the cross into the box. No one attacks the ball, allowing Martinez to get and control it. Then three defenders go for blocking and cutting down the shooting angle, rather than pressuring Martinez. Finally on the shot, goalkeeper Tim Howard dove the wrong way on the shot. I wouldn’t have expected him to save it, but he didn’t make a great effort.

That’s four (possibly five) players who could have helped prevent the game winning goal. This trend hurt the Rapids against Portland and last month against Columbus Crew SC.

MLS Really Needs VAR:

Head Referee Silviu Petrescu and his crew did not have a good match in this game. Dennis Castillo had a very hard tackle on Leandro González Pirez and was given a yellow card. On replay, the challenge appeared to be wreckless and could have been a red card. Later in the first half, Josh Gatt had a great chance to score for Colorado, but he brought the ball down with his arm. No hand ball was called on the play. Alec Kann made the save anyways.

Atlanta’s only yellow card of the match went to Almiron for dissent in the 84th minute after an apparent handball by Williams in the box. Nothing was called and Almiron (among other United players) were incensed at Petrescu.

All three of these referee decisions (or rather non-decisions) benefited Colorado on the day. All three could have used a Video Assisted Referee to help the officials make a more informed decision.

One Final Thought: Martinez Almost Got Burned:

There was a scary moment immediately after the goal was scored. Atlanta United has fire spitters behind both goals that emit flames after goals scored (Seattle has something similar). After scoring his goal, Martinez jumped on top of one of the boxes that emits theses flames. He then had to lean back and ultimately jump down to avoid getting burned.
I’m all for celebrating after scoring a goal, but maybe Atlanta should set up a Health and Safety meeting just in case.

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