Fast and fluid have been the buzzwords around Atlanta United since this team starting coming together under the leadership of Darren Eales and Carlos Bocanegra. Going into what became the coldest game in the history of Major League Soccer, there was a concern that the conditions could hamper Atlanta’s ability to play their style. Josef Martinez’s hat trick, Miguel Almirón’s two goals, and Jacob Peterson’s icing on the cake in stoppage time completed a 6-1 rout that gave Atlanta United their first win in club history.
During Sunday’s pregame, Adam Schick and I discussed the need for Atlanta to get started quickly in order to best manage the deteriorating conditions on the field. Goals from Martinez and Almirón put the Five Stripes into a commanding early lead after 13 minutes. Martinez added his second, but a Kevin Molino penalty kick gave Minnesota a lifeline in the 39th minute.
Where Atlanta struggled to close the game out against New York, they did everything that was necessary in Minnesota. They showed mental strength in riding out the remaining minutes in the first half after Molino’s goal. Tactical adjustments at halftime by manager Tata Martino gave the team the game plan to handle the situation. Almirón’s volleyed laser in the 52nd minute ended Minnesota’s hopes of clawing back into the game. Martinez completed his hat trick in the 75th minute and substitute Jacob Peterson added one more in stoppage time.
Quotes (provided by Atlanta United)
Manager Tata Martino:
“I was a little worried about learning how those games go because I’ve never coached a game in the snow before. And above all in the second half, I thought we played a simple game, a really serious game and I we avoided problems.”
Midfielder Miguel Almirón:
“After we were able to control the game better than we did last week and that helped us to be more relaxed.”
Forward Josef Martinez:
“It’s always nice to score, and even more so when it’s three. But the most important thing is that the team got the win tonight and it feels really good to get the first win in team history.”
- Don’t put stock into the passing statistics from Sunday. The conditions made a short-passing game nearly impossible, and many turnovers resulted. Give Tata Martino, and his defense, credit for adjusting to this in the second half and eliminating some of the risky passes in the back.
- Atlanta’s efficiency in the attack was ruthless. Eight shots on goal resulted in six goals; that’s rarely seen at this level.
- The Five Stripes do have to be more careful about giving up set pieces in their defensive third of the field. Nine set-piece opportunities for Minnesota is way too many.
- While Josef Martinez stole the show with his hat trick, Miguel Almirón demonstrated the complete skill set that makes him a contender for MLS MVP if this season goes the way Atlanta hopes.
- Jeff Larentowicz showed why he was signed as a free agent. He replaced the suspended Carlos Carmona as a defensive midfielder and his experience was very important.