Atlanta United must overcome foul tactic

Among the reasons that Atlanta United’s offense is failing to ignite this season is because it is the most fouled team in MLS.

The Five Stripes have been fouled 188 times in 11 games. Inter Miami is second with 174 fouls drawn. Atlanta United has scored just 11 goals this season.

It’s hard to get going down the field when you are laying on the field. The fouls mess with rhythm, tactics and can become frustrating.

“It disrupts the flow of the team,” interim manager Stephen Glass said.

Midfielder Ezequiel Barco leads the league in fouls drawn (40), three more than Inter Miami’s Rodolfo Pizarro, who is second on the list of those chopped. Midfielder Eric Remedi is fifth (31). Midfielder Pity Martinez, who was sold to a club in Saudi Arabia and hasn’t played in Atlanta United’s past three games, remains 12th (22).

This season continues a trend of Barco having shins like magnets for opponent’s cleats: he was fouled 41 times in 15 appearances last season and 65 in 26 appearances in 2018.

“I try to stay calm about it,” he said. “I think it’s part of the game. I know that teams are trying to play their best.”

Like Barco, midfielder Tyler Wolff said he understands why Atlanta United’s players are being fouled. But he said it does frustrate.

To stop the fouls, Wolff said the team needs to avoid the places on the field where they are typically fouled, and they need to move the ball quicker.

“If we are being fouled, it means we are closer to a defender,” he said. “Get away from defenders, get into space, it will help.”

Or Atlanta United must convert those free kicks into goals. It has 14 shots from free kicks, second-most in MLS. It has scored just once.

The odd thing about Atlanta United leading the league in fouls drawn is that it twice has been aggrieved by calls that weren’t made: the first was when Brooks Lennon was kicked in the neck by an Orlando player in a game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Glass felt there should have been a penalty kick and red card given. The Professional Referees Organization agreed in its weekly review, saying a penalty should have been awarded.

The second time, Jon Gallagher was hit in the face by Miami’s Nicolas Figal in the penalty box. The penalty was given but only a yellow card was issued. Barco’s penalty kick was saved ... twice.

“You hope that the officiating helps you overcome that," Glass said. "At times, I don’t feel like it has. As people highlight the fact that it’s a real situation, it will get taken care of. Otherwise, it looks like officials aren’t taking care of the things they should.”

Atlanta United coming games

Saturday Miami, 7 p.m., Fox Sports Southeast

Sept. 23 Dallas, 7 p.m., Fox Sports South

Sept. 27 at Chicago, 7:30 pm., Fox Sports Southeast

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