March 10, 2019 Atlanta: Atlanta United midfielder Pity Martinez is blocked out by FC Cincinnati defender Alvas Powell in front of the goal during the second half in their MLS soccer match on Sunday, March 10, 2019, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Changes may be coming to Atlanta United’s offense

After talking with his players Monday, Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer hinted Tuesday that the team’s offense may start to resemble the aggressive sides of the past two years than the ponderous side shown in four of this season’s first five games.

“It doesn’t matter if you have 70, 30 percent of possession, if you don’t create chances,” de Boer said. “We have to do more. We talked to the players and the team on how we can improve that. I think we’ve made a big step forward.”

Atlanta United will need all the offense it can produce Wednesday against Monterrey if it hopes to keep alive its chances of winning the Champions League. The Five Stripes trail Rayados 3-0 in the quarterfinal series. It must score at least three goals Wednesday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, while shutting out Monterrey, to advance.

It seems unlikely because Atlanta United has been shut out twice this season, scored one goal in two other games, and four in another.

It’s a much different offense than the one that scored 70 goals in 34 games in each of the past two league seasons.

“I know the product on the field hasn’t been what we’ve been used to,” Atlanta United captain Michael Parkhurst said.

Some of the team’s issues on offense can be traced to not having enough time in the preseason to work on the 3-4-3 formation and tactics before jumping into tournament play interwoven with league play. 

Some can be traced to trying to bring in new players such as Gonzalo Martinez and Brek Shea, and others such as Ezequiel Barco who are receiving more playing time than last season.

Those players will continue to be relied upon and the schedule will start to thin out, especially if Atlanta United is knocked out by Monterrey on Wednesday.

De Boer said the 3-4-3 formation won’t change because to try to do so with just two days between Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Cincinnati and Wednesday’s game against Monterrey would be “panicking.”

But he hinted that there may be tactical changes within the formation.

He said that the scoring opportunities against Cincinnati happened when players made runs away from the ball, which created holes in the opponent’s formation. Josef Martinez’s goal was a run away from the ball. Eric Remedi had another in the first half that resulted in a shot on goal. But he said too often players either made runs toward the ball, or stood around.

“Someone has to take the initiative,” he said.

Frustrated with the boring performance, some of the supporters in Mercedes-Benz Stadium could be heard booing after the game. That was a first since the team started play in 2017.

Recognizing that neither the performance nor the result against Cincinnati were satisfying, de Boer said the team worked on things in training Tuesday that he thinks the players appreciated.

“We want the identity to be what Atlanta United created from beginning,” Parkhurst said. “A high-tempo offensive team that likes to get forward, score goals but is strong defensively.

“When we attacked, we were aggressive. That’s missing right now. We want to get back to those things and we will. It’s still there. It’s still mostly the same group. We will get it back.”

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