Analyzing the initial six minutes of Atlanta United’s five- win vs. the Houston Dynamo

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The Houston Dynamo’s Alberth Elis got himself sent off by referee Chris Penso in the 6th minute of Wednesday’s five- demolition job by Atlanta United. All 5 of the ambitions came immediately after the early red card, and the sending off was a clear inflection point in the match that propelled the 5 Stripes to a lopsided outcome. It does not make the win any significantly less emotionally gratifying for fans, but it does tinge the overall performance with a shroud of doubt with regards to Atlanta’s tactical superiority.

And that is a shame, simply because not only was it arguably the most entertaining version of Atlanta United we’ve noticed this season, but it also coincided with a significant tactical modify by Frank de Boer, returning to a back 3 that he made use of to start his tenure.

Frank de Boer told media in his post-match press conference: “I assume you can say, of course the red card assists, constantly, but I assume you also try to remember the Red Bulls game. We didn’t play at that moment like this so that is a excellent step that we created. I assume we also began incredibly properly against 11, initial we had the opportunity with Josef (Martinez) and then one more opportunity, and of course they had 1 excellent opportunity.”

Let’s unpack this quote and examine what Frank de Boer is speaking about.

When Atlanta United’s lineup was released an hour prior to kickoff, certainly handful of Atlanta United fans anticipated the shape to be the four-three-three in which it was initially depicted. The tactical switch was a defensive measure from De Boer, opting to guard against a potentially unsafe Houston front 4 with 3 center backs and 3 central midfielders. As it turned out, Wilmer Cabrera opted to rest star striker Mauro Manotas and left winger Rommel Quioto.

Though Atlanta was tactically in protection mode, the group came out aggressive and on the front foot. Just seconds immediately after kickoff, Brandon Vazquez’s stress won a deflection that Julian Gressel intercepted, and he right away played Josef Martínez in on purpose.

Houston was ultimately in a position to place collectively possession and develop some attacks, and right here we are in a position to much more clearly see Atlanta’s defensive structure and the marking responsibilities of the back line. Gressel and Pereira dropped into the back line to make a line of 5, enabling the central CB to mark the striker and the two wide CBs to cover for the wing backs — neither of which are organic defenders. (*De Boer speedily swapped his position with Robinson to enable the much more athletic of the CBs to mark Elis, who played as a central forward as an alternative of his customary ideal-sided function).


Right here we see Julian Gressel staying back to mark Houston’s LW Tommy McNamara. The wide space in which Tomas Martínez is carrying the ball is covered by Nagbe shuttling more than with Hyndman, a organic central midfielder, dropping in to cover the back side.

The efectiveness of the three-five-two wasn’t just apparent off the ball even though. Atlanta had Houston outnumbered in this location throughout the buildup phase. Houston defended with “two banks of 4,” making use of Elis and Martínez to mark 4 Atlanta United players (the 3 CBs + Larentowicz).


In reality, Martínez and Elis are not necessarily “marking,” but attempting to squeeze the play to 1 side of the field so Houston could close down on Atlanta players close to the touchline and limit danger in the middle of the park. It worked fine. But Atlanta capitalized when Houston chose to come out of their shell and press Atlanta’s back line.

On the entire, Atlanta’s back 3 gave the group a platform to be much more aggressive tackling and closing down Houston players in midfield. Though Gressel dropped to guard the flank when Atlanta defended its personal penalty location, right here he measures up to Dynamo left back Damarcus Beasley additional afield. Brandon Vazquez once again wins the ball for Atlanta in an location that enables them to break on purpose.

Vazquez loses his footing on the ball, but you cannot aid but wonder what this circumstance could have created with somebody like Ezequiel Barco or Pity Martínez on the ball. We also see a delicate passing mixture in between Josef Martínez and Emerson Hyndman. The new signing showed his class Wednesday evening and he appears poised to break via into Frank de Boer’s most effective XI sooner rather than later.

“I adore when individuals are knocking at the door and want to be involved in the group,” De Boer mentioned of Hyndman immediately after the game. “He’s definitely knocking.”

The overall performance wasn’t best even though. At the finish of the clip above, we can see Dion Pereira — a incredibly young player that is not a organic wingback — and Jeff Larentowicz committing themselves higher up the pitch. Houston is in a position to exploit Atlanta’s aggressiveness against them and almost grab a purpose themselves. Let’s choose it back up from precisely exactly where we left it on this run of play.

What’s clear right here is that De Boer’s group hadn’t had adequate time in coaching to make such a tactical switch fully seamless. He and players told reporters immediately after the match that they only ready themselves in the shape for 1, somewhat short coaching session. But the seeds of it had been sown considerably earlier in the season, and Atlanta showed that it has tactical flexibility below De Boer.

Atlanta United would not have won the game five- if Houston didn’t go down to 10 males early in the match, but even discounting every thing that occurred in the 84 minutes that followed, the three-five-two gave the group a increase it desperately necessary. Does that imply it is three-five-two for the rest of the season? I doubt it. De Boer mentioned immediately after the game that he will return to the four-three-three if he thinks it suits the matchup and much more injured players turn into readily available for choice. But now we know Atlanta has this in its tool belt, and it is anything that opposing managers will want to prepare for.

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