Here’s a very quick scouting report on Chicago, based solely on highlights and chalkboards. How are they doin? What kind of chances do they create and what kind of chances do they give up?
Summary of results so far:
In week 1, Chicago went down early at Columbus off of a cross from the left during a calm cycling possession from the home side in the 17th minute. Chicago equalized in the 73rd off a turnover in midfield and a nice forward (through-ish) pass to Accam who curls it in nicely after some deflected dribbling. 1-1.
In week 2, Chicago went up early hosting RSL after a really weird play on the break where a defender tackled the ball (very through-ish) all the way to an offside forward who calmly slotted it home in the 11th. Then shortly thereafter, Alvarez dribbled through midfield with little resistance before shooting from the D as a deflection helped the ball into the net in the 17th. Chicago then defended the whole rest of the game against RSL. 2-0
Chance Creation (images from MLSSoccer.com box scores)
Left, chasing the game against Columbus (1.14 expected goals). Right, comfortably ahead most of the game against RSL (0.49 expected goals). Top row is shots, followed by Crosses, Key Passes, and Assists (open play).
On shots, the only thing that pops out to me is that Chicago’s shot selection is mostly nice and central which is smart of them — perhaps too many shots from distance, one of which worked out against RSL. Kann struggled with the one shot from distance against NY. In terms of attacking distribution, there were plenty of unsuccessful crosses while they were chasing the game against Columbus, but what ultimately got them the equalizer was again, a break off of a loose ball in midfield. Against RSL, fewer chances as you’d imagine for a team largely defending a 2 goal lead (41% possession). I would say they are most dangerous on the counter via the through-ball, particularly to the pacey Accam.
Left, chasing the game against Columbus (1.44 expected goals allowed). Right, comfortably ahead most of the game against RSL (1.52 expected goals allowed). Top row is shots, followed by Crosses, Key Passes, and Assists (open play). In the first game (left) during an even game state, Chicago allowed a relatively easy cross in for a well-headed goal after some calm cycled possession from Columbus. Against RSL, since they were leading most of the game, it appears as though they were happy to allow RSL to play the ball out wide and cross in. Mostly these were unsuccessful, although a few made their way to attackers in very dangerous from the right. I don’t really think this clarifies a good game plan for Atlanta. Crosses aren’t great chances on their own, but they are also easier dealt with by a team who’s defending a lead and has plenty of bodies in there to clear. If anything, the fact that they did give up a few chances from crosses suggests that if Atlanta goes down a goal, I might break the Kenwyne-glass-in-case-of-emergency a little earlier, say the 60th minute — if Chicago is bunkering and we’re having a difficult time getting behind them.
Distribution from the back:
First the goalkeeper (Left CLB, right RSL). Looks like he’s mostly prone to hitting it long (especially with a lead), so there’s not much for Atlanta to exploit here, in terms of denying distribution to the better ball-playing centre back. I could be missing something, small sample size.
Next, centre back distribution. It looks as though in the first game, Chicago was happy to cycle the ball around the back line, and there were even some relatively successful direct forward passes from the CBs. Against RSL, up a goal, and perhaps under more of a press, they were happy to hit the ball long more often. What I’m looking for here is whether buildup play *always* goes through 1 of the 2 central defenders, and I’m just not seeing it, so not much to see here.
There’s not much to go on here with so few games to look at. I don’t see anything specifically for Atlanta to be exploiting. The biggest danger to me seems to be Atlanta turning the ball over in midfield with the fullbacks far forward, as they have done plenty so far this year, and Accam running with the ball at his feet at an exposed centre back pair on the break. I expect to see the same Atlanta lineup as in the first game against New York. Man for man, Atlanta should have the better chances though I would be wary of giving up an early goal, and inviting Chicago to drop back and defend the rest of the game. That situation might call for a plan B (Kenwyne).