Creating and defending chances is the lifeblood of every match. Tata Martino’s Atlanta United will be successful if they create many scoring chances and limit conceding them to their opposition.
Let’s take a look at Saturday’s first half and the types of chances Atlanta created and conceded against Chattanooga:
- The chances were split evenly in the first half with each team creating twelve. They way they created them, and the quality of the chances created, were very different.
- It took Atlanta about ten minutes to settle into the game. Chattanooga had four chances in that time. The best chance for the home team was in the 2nd minute, when Alec Kann had to come off his line to deny a shot attempt near the top of the penalty area. Jeff Larentowicz turned the ball over at midfield when he was double teamed. Chattanooga’s left winger ran between Tyrone Mears and Michael Parkhust and a perfectly weighted pass had him in on goal. Kann’s quick reaction snuffed out the chance before a shot could happen.
- Atlanta’s first chance resulted in their first goal. After Kenwyne Jones won back-to-back headers on Chattanooga corner kicks, Miguel Almirón forced a takeaway fifteen yards inside his own half. He carried the ball forty yards at top speed, beating one defender and drawing three others to him. Tito Villalba cut inside of him and Almirón’s pass found him 1v1 with Chattanooga’s goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck. The first shot was saved, but Villalba knocked the rebound home.
- That chance was an aberration as most of Atlanta’s chances for the rest of the game came after longer spells of possession.
- The next sequence says a lot about how Atlanta will want to play in 2017. Chattanooga was in possession in their own half and Atlanta stepped high to pressure them. Chris McCann and Jeff Larentowicz both stepped to pressure a ball forty yards from their own goal. Chattanooga split them and had a runner in behind Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, but he was able to cut off the passing lane and intercept.
- Gonzalez Pirez did not just blast the ball away, instead he controlled the interception and played a fifteen yard pass on the ground to a retreating Almirón. He was able to turn and run and a thirteen pass sequence created a Villalba shot from thirty yards that was narrowly wide. The team showed a change in tempo from frantic when trying to recover possession to calm and patient with the ball.
- Two of Chattanooga’s better chances came when runners got behind Greg Garza on free kicks near midfield. One resulted in a shot that went wide, the other was a shot right at Kann.
- Set pieces were Chattanooga’s biggest opportunity on Saturday as nearly all of their chances began with a dead ball situation.
- Most of Atlanta’s chances came from a takeaway through their pressure.
- United found lots of success in swinging the ball from side to side and getting Mears and Garza involved in the attack.
- In the 23rd minute, Atlanta again showed how dangerous their pressure can be. A long ball was sent up to Kenwyne Jones, but he could not control it. Immediate pressure came from Almirón, Villalba, and Yamil Asad. Mears intercepted a pass just inside the Chattanooga half. After a series of passes from side to side, Mears nearly found Jones with a cross from the right. Garza picked up the loose ball and fired a shot just wide of the near post.
- Yamil Asad’s outstanding goal was not just due an individual effort, but the team’s game system. Chattanooga played a long ball forward that Asad won in the air. That started a fast ten-pass sequence that resulted eventually ended with Asad’s goal.
- A fourteen pass sequence nearly led to a third goal to close out the half. After the ball went from the right to the left, McCann’s cross was on target for Jones, but a Chattanooga defender appeared to make contact with Jones and he went down with no call.
Defensively, Atlanta needs to be careful to maintain balance when it presses and to watch for runners getting behind the outside backs. In the attack, the combinations were very good for the team’s first game and should only improve. The crispness of the passes improved as the half went on, as did the movement off the ball.
It was a good start for the guys in Red & Black stripes (and Gray & Red in the second half) that revealed some hints as to how they will look to manage games this season.