Atlanta United’s Brad Guzan gave an ominous prediction for his team in its next games at Montreal, against New England and in the playoffs if it continues to play like it did in the first half of Wednesday’s 4-1 loss at NYCFC.
“Need to have a serious look in the mirror, all of us,” he said. “We play like this, it’s going to be a short postseason.”
In the first 34 minutes of Wednesday’s important game at NYCFC, with the possibility of finishing in first in the MLS East at stake, Atlanta United’s players lost too many duels, lost too many one-on-one battles, were out of position too many times, and just mentally didn’t seem to be in the Bronx.
They looked like a team that is worn down from playing its 32nd game in MLS, on top of four games in the Champions League, five in the U.S. Open Cup, and another for the Campeones Cup in a span of seven months. As evidence, it’s a that has become increasingly reliant on moments of individual brilliance in its past games than on consistency across 90 minutes.
“I don’t know, but it’s not an excuse,” Guzan said. “This is our job. Our job is to step on the field and perform. We didn’t fight, we didn’t battle, we didn’t tackle. We didn’t combine more than 3-4 passes. Plain and simple it wasn’t good enough. I know I keep saying that but if we play like this in Montreal we aren’t going to get a result. We play like this against New England at home and we aren’t going to get a result and we are going to go into the first game of the playoffs and play like this and it won’t be good enough, plain and simple.”
Striker Brandon Vazquez also disagreed with the theory that the team is simply out of gas. In addition to the games, there have been numerous injuries. The team on Wednesday was without Josef Martinez, its leading scorer, and Ezequiel Barco, who like Martinez is a Designated Player, and Julian Gressel, one of its better all-around players.
“We are still pushing through,” he said.
Manager Frank de Boer said that when the team found its focus in the second half and started winning the individual battles, it outplayed NYCFC for the first 30 minutes. It will take that “straightening the back” — one of his favorite phrases — on Sunday in Montreal.
Though first place is out of the question, Atlanta United can still compete for second. Philadelphia’s win over San Jose late Wednesday means that the Five Stripes are in third, one point behind the Union. Philadelphia will play at Columbus and will host NYCFC in its final two games.
“We know, we showed it again today, if we aren’t 100 percent focused and give 100 percent mentality we are vulnerable,” de Boer said. “We have to show that we are learning form the experience and show this was a one-time accident. This can not happens in the playoffs, of course.”
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