It was just one of those nights. In football, you’ll have times where everything goes right. You get the calls, the crosses are on point, the touches are quality, and when the goal opportunities come, you capitalize. But Sunday night was not one of those nights.
Had you asked me my scoreline prediction before the match I would’ve said two-one or three-nil Atlanta. Within the first 30 minutes, United scored two quick goals and had the potential to make my latter prediction a fact. But like I said before, Sunday night was not one of those nights.
Bad calls, missed calls, fouls aplenty, what should have been clear corner kicks for ATL turned into goal kicks for the away side, missing wide open nets, having two 1 v 1 chances with the goalkeeper and missing both, and one single goal. 12 shots, 7 on target, one goal. It was a miracle that a total of 29 fouls committed and it didn’t get chippy on the pitch.
Ezequiel Barco scored Atlanta’s lone goal in the 26′. Minutes later, Josef Martinez looked to increase the lead to 2-0 but VAR review it was overturned (nobody knew why it was overturned but it was). Martinez scored again on a long through ball after dribbling around the keeper but that too was overturned after VAR review (he was called for fouling the defender holding the line, which was questionable). Just minutes after that, referee Christopher Penso determined Miles Robinson committed a foul inside the box which resulted in a penalty for New York. Red Bull midfielder Daniel Royer converted the try which made the match 1-1.
“I don’t want to take away credit from Red Bulls, so I don’t want to justify it with VAR, because Red Bulls is a very good team and the same thing for Kansas City,” said manager Tata Martino about VAR’s influence on the match. “But the reality is that both games had the same protagonist, and when I say the same, I’m not talking about the referee. I’m talking about the same person (Mark Geiger). In one game he refereed and in the other he reviewed. And they were decisive in the outcome of the game.”
Early in the second half, Atlanta United was shaken by two quick goals from New York. Both goals were headers by Bradley Wright-Phillips. “Bradley Wright-Phillips is dangerous. He’s proven that year after year,” said Guzan about the pair of headers. “Then, the third goal, we were a bit sloppy with the ball. Too many careless passes. We weren’t tidy.”
Young defender Miles Robinson has been improving with each match. Mistakes will be made, that’s just the game, but to be so young and hold such a responsibility as he is cannot be labeled ‘easy’ by any means. He did a good job holding the line alongside Michael Parkhurst and Leandro Gónzalez-Pirez. The only weakness on the United defense is longballs. All throughout the match, NYRB would launch 30-yard rockets to their attackers just waiting to pounce on a one-man Parkhurst or Robinson (because often times we press too high leaving just a defender or two holding the midfield line). If United can rectify that, they’ll be next to unstoppable.
I will give LGP props for pushing high but tracking back as often as he did. He was responsible for a handful of clearances and some key tackles to stop New York’s attack. So after a 3-1 defeat with horrific officiating, his frustration was understandable. “The callback on the goal by Josef (Martinez) was stupid because (Tim) Parker ran to one side and Josef ran to the other side, and we passed the ball (to Josef). Then, the (referee) called a foul. That is a foul? That is real? It is stupid. It’s the same. Every single week it is the same. This is the first problem.”
I’d be remiss to mention the Greg Garza red card, another call which seemed questionable. He was fouled into a Red Bulls player taking his legs from under him. After both were treated by their respected physios Garza was helped off the field while receiving a straight red. So even while playing with 10 men, Atlanta still pushed forward and saw some legitimate chances arise. A late injury caused the referee to add 12 minutes of stoppage time so a total of 32 minutes were played while down a man and the team never gave up. But… It was just one of those nights (multiple scoring chances could’ve made the match 3-3 or even 4-3).
For the first time in two months, Atlanta United is off this weekend. They’ll return to action next Wednesday, May 30, to take on the New England Revolution.
Photo: Hakim Wright