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MLS SOCCER

Tata Pulls Martinez, Game Ends in Draw

As dominant a team Atlanta United is, they can’t seem to figure out the method to beating Toronto FC. The two clubs faced off on Saturday at the Mercedes Benz Stadium with the result being a 2-2 draw. This is the third draw between the two clubs.

Well, what is it about that team from the north that continues to pose a threat to the Five Stripes?

Who knows.

It could have been the MLS All-Star game that was played on United’s home turf that caused the team to be undisciplined down the stretch. Alternatively, the defensive formation changes they had to get accustomed to with only three days before the game possibly played a factor in the outcome of the match also.

“We worked on a little bit,” midfielder Jeff Larentowicz said about learning the new defensive formation. “Every now and then in training, we’ll throw it in there and work on it. This week, they knew straight away that we were going to play it. Guys that weren’t with the All-Star team worked on it while we were doing All-Star duty. On Thursday, we trained it. I think we were prepared. We’ve played it enough this season. Guys understand their roles and responsibilities, and so we should be able to change between those formations now.”

Atlanta United gave up both goals in pivotal moments in the game. The first goal came in the final seconds of the first half when Sebastian Giovinco scored on a through ball and lasered a shot past Brad Guzan. The second goal came on a cross that Tosaint Ricketts took advantage of in the 90′.

Josef Martinez once again showcased his phenomenal scoring ability, though with his 25th goal coming in the 51′ and his 26th goal, which was a splendid header, in the 66′. Martinez is now one goal shy of tying the MLS record for most goals in a season, which begs the question, just how many goals can Martinez score this year? According to his teammate Michael Parkhurst, the sky is the limit for the Venezuelan scoring machine.

“I don’t know. Obviously, we all just hope that he continues his torrid form,” Parkhurst said. “He is unbelievable in front of the goal. We say it week in and week out, and he just keeps doing it. I hope he doesn’t stop. I hope he keeps going. I don’t know what the number is. If he can stay healthy and stay on the field, then there’s no doubt he’s going to break the record and hopefully score more than that. Hopefully, we can keep giving him good opportunities to score goals, and he can keep putting them in the net for us.”

Despite Martinez giving his team a 2-1 lead midway through the second half, head coach Tata Martino made a bold decision by pulling him out of the game after the second goal. It was a gutsy call that proved detrimental to United’s chance of winning the game.

“I thought he was very tired,” Martino said. “I saw him hunched over touching his legs, touching an area where he had an injury last year. I just thought that it was best that he was off the field and he had played enough.”

Fortunately for Martinez and the Five Stripes, they have a week to regroup until their next match against Columbus Crew SC. United must learn to close out games, which Martino doesn’t foresee being a significant issue for his club moving forward.

“I already said it, by having a throw-in and a delay. A sub and a delay. A goal kick and a delay. That’s things that other teams are doing, and tonight the other team is doing it, and they aren’t being punished for it. In the second half, when we’re up after 80 minutes, we see they’re not being punished for it, then that’s something that we should do. If you have a favorable result, then that’s a tactic. If other teams are going to do it and not get punished… We have to have the experience and knowledge of how to close the game.”

Atlanta United welcomes the Columbus Crew to the Benz Aug. 19 at 4 P.M. ET.

By: D’Mitri Chin

 

All Photos by:  William Curtis

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