My take and observations from last night's first leg CCL quarterfinal at Atlanta's Mercedes Benz Stadium.
From an Atlanta United perspective, 50% of something is better than 0% of nothing. For the first 45 minutes, other than one of two big miscommunications that led to Philadelphia's first goal, which was completely against the run of play, the Five Stripes looked very good. So good in fact, we did get too upset with the lack of finishing passes or finishing in that first half. "Not too upset" other than that famous cliché "you get punished for not taking your chances."
The amount of pressure and speed of play Atlanta exhibited in the first half became a false narrative. Maybe Jim Curtain's tactic was the infamous "rope-a-dope" and a bit of luck as the Union were able to suck up Atlanta's onslaught in the first 45 - and then purely out-managed Gabriel Heinze in the last 45. Yes, Curtain's magic was also supported by Atlanta's inability to serve a quality ball and finish, as well as their panic-stricken effort to get everyone forward in the second half. Was the Union's counter that good or did Atlanta provide a path to numerical advantage?
No Atlanta supporter will be upset at Gabriel Heinze's high-pressure, attacking style of play. What they might be upset with is what I will refer to as "two-leg maturity." There is obviously a risk-reward factor to Atlanta's get-forward mentality, and in a League match, to lose a game 3-0 due to that ethos is just part of a long season. To maintain that mentality in a two-game CCL quarterfinal is both short-sighted and ignorant. I won't go into detail on possession, number of crosses, number of chances, and shots on goal, but it is a sure bet that Heinze will do so in today's videotape sessions.
Atlanta finds itself in a precarious short-term situation. Four days rest and a visit to Bruce Arena's New England Revolution, and then the CCL quarterfinal return leg at Philadelphia three days later. Questions to ponder: is Jurgen Damm unlucky or is his speed his only real asset? When do we see a match fit Josef Martinez...and if match fit, when will he get to impose his will? Did Gabriel Heinze learn some lessons last night? As I stated to various people leading up to last night's match, did Curtain and will subsequent managers employ tactics to expose the Five Stripes on the counter? I would.