This is the first ATLUTD Insight blog post and will be hastily thrown together ahead of Atlanta United’s first ever MLS match on Sunday (3-5-17). I’m hoping I’ll post occasionally on this blog what I observe watching ATL’s games both in person and on TV when I cannot attend. I’m an Atlanta United season ticketholder who has followed MLS somewhat casually for years. I haven’t seen a ton of games due to more limited TV coverage and not having a team until now, though I have tried to keep an eye on the excellent analytics-focused work over at AmericanSoccerAnalysis.com to stay current. I have followed the Premier League closely since 2008.
Here we go: Atlanta United vs New York Red Bulls (3-5-17)
What I’ll be looking for at Bobby Dodd Stadium, come Sunday night:
- High Pressing – How frequently and with what level of vigor is the team attempting to press the away side’s back line? Will this happen right out of the gate, how long will it persist, and what sort of pressing will we see — just upon turning the ball over to stop counters, or methodically as a form of constant resistance to the Red Bulls buildup and attack. I’ll be curious to see how the pressing intensity wavers over the course of the game and as (if) different game states emerge.
- Formation – I’ll be expecting a back 4, 2 wide attacking midfielders, and 1 striker. Questions for me are 1) will Kenwyne Jones lead the line as a more classic centre forward, or will Josef Martinez occupy that role, and make more frequent speedy runs into the channel, and 2) in central midfield, will we see a dedicated #6 with two more advanced runners (#8/#10s) or will we see a double pivot of two more dedicated central defensive midfielders partnering with one more forward leaning central attacking midfielder?
- Will Atlanta’s full backs both push high up often, or will we see one or both exercise more restraint than we saw in preseason?
- Red Bulls are a high pressing team. If Martino elects not to press, with what success will the team maintain shape and look to spring speedy counters for a lower number of higher quality chances on goal.
- Will Atlanta play the ball out of the back on goal kicks, or will Alec Kann boot it long?
- How will the narrow pitch impact the match? Will it be embarrassingly narrow, making corner kicks difficult and the sidelines perilous? Or will it look natural, with its impacts limited to tactical nuances?
- Chance Creation – How will ATL find its scoring chances: mainly on the break, or through sustained possession/buildup?
- Set Pieces – On offense, short corners or traditional corner kicks? On defense, zonal marking or man marking — how does ATL cope with shortcomings in height.
- Biggest worry as a fan – a McCann / Larentowicz pairing in midfield might not have enough collective mobility to shield a back line that I expect will be sending full backs forward frequently. Also, slightly worried about turnovers in midfield if it’s that pairing (primarily coming from McCann).
- Another biggest worry – I believe RBNY will have something up their sleeve as it relates to set pieces, a designed play to exploit what is probably a very baseline set piece defense installed to date in Atlanta. The away side may be targeting a designed set play as a way to counteract what might be an otherwise tired performance, having just played on Thursday night halfway around the world.