The “MLS is Back” tournament marks the return of soccer in the United States. The beautiful game is finally back after its hiatus due to coronavirus lockdown. Similar to the other leagues that have been confirmed to resume, such as the NBA, the MLS is Back tournament is currently being held in Orlando, Florida. 24 clubs have already committed to play, and have already played their first games last weekend, including Atlanta’s very own Atlanta United FC. Atlanta United lost their first game to New York Red Bulls by a score of 0-1, but they are still one of the favorites to win it all, even without star striker Josef Martinez.
Atlanta head coach, Frank de Boer, said in a recent press conference that his desired system of play would be the 3-4-3 formation. This formation utilizes wing backs that provide the width and added attacking power while having the defensive ability to track back and prevent attacks. This system is also often used by Italian coach, Antonio Conte. This style of play proved effective for them in their triumphant 2016-2017 season, winning the Premier League title. The strong suit of this system is in the wing backs, and the team has strength in this department. Atlanta United still has their strong wing backs, Anton Walkes and Brooks Lennon, who are both adventurous moving forward, and have the work ethic to defend and track back. In order for this system to work, the center back trio need to be strong and confident with guarding fast wingers in case of counter attacks. Atlanta United still has star center back, Miles Robinson, to anchor their defense, so it still looks like they will be a defensive force when the rust wears off. With this system, it provides a sense of freedom in attack for the front three, as it does not give too much responsibility to them to track back on defense. Even without star striker Josef Martinez, Atlanta United still has the depth and squad strength in players such as Hyndmann, Barco, to bolster their attack.
Even with their defeat, Atlanta United played a good game in terms of statistics. The team scored a very early goal through a neatly crafted counter-attack, with Alejandro Romeo splitting the defense with a beautiful through ball, and neatly finished by Florian Valont. The team as a whole was able to ride the game through and dominate in the possession stats (68-32%), and they registered 14 shots, 4 on target. While there are obviously lapses in concentration on defense, it may come natural given that these players have been on hiatus from any team activities for a few months. With a few training sessions, and with tactical and great head coach, Frank de Boer, perhaps a few training sessions would be enough to solve the errors at the back. The tournament is still a long way from ending, so don’t be sure to count Atlanta United out just yet. The team is made of champions and winners, and they are more than capable of bouncing back after a frustrating game. While it may not be a major tournament, we are sure that the team is still keen and determined to win it all and they are determined to cement their place at the throne of the MLS. Come on, boys!