MLS Eastern Conference Final: Atlanta United vs New York Red Bull
In the Eastern Conference final Atlanta United hosted New York Red Bull. The fact that New York Red Bull grabbed the Supporters’ Shield in front of Atlanta United which naturally gives this final a special flavour. We anticipated an intense clash, however, the home side beat NYRB quite easily. Let’s see how.
Atlanta United started with their usual line-up and formation which was more likely a 3-1-4-2/3-1-5-1 in possession, and it becomes a 5-3-2 shape once they transitioned into defending.
Moreover, with the ball, the side-backs and Remedi would responsible for progress from deep. Thus they stayed deep whilst everyone else moved higher. Thus Remedi was the lone holding midfielder. Gressel and Nagbe had the licence to positioning in the attacking halfspaces. Their role was providing a short option in the ball-side. Therefore, Almiron and Martinez could move in NYRB’s first line, occupying both centre-backs. Their task was to threaten into depth. However, Almiron often dropped into the midfield line between Gressel and Nagbe.
Furthermore, Garza and Escobar gave the width on the midfield line with stuck to the sidelines. They often found with diagonal long-balls in free position due to NYRB narrow shape.
It was clear from the begging that Atlanta aimed to maintain the possession of the ball and dominate the game. While New York Red Bull emphasised on quick attacks and defending. Their base formation was the well-known 4-2-3-1. Due to the defensive manner, they took for this match, the structure was most of the time a 4-4-2 with Royer and Muyl dropping into midfield line.
Despite Atlanta’s dominance they struggled to create chances. The reason is clear, Chris Armas’ side formed a narrow shape which prevents Atlanta from using their central players. Therefore, the first half hour was goalless. Their biggest opportunity occurred from counter-attacks and the first goal came from a cross. Whilst NYRB rarely reached the opponent’s final third in the first half. Atlanta handles the guests counter attacking attempts, most of them cut off quickly.
NYRB pressing scheme
In the first minutes NYRB operated with the 4-2-3-1 formation during the pressing phase, but around 10th minutes they mostly used a 4-4-2 shape. Where Wright-Phillips aiming to shepherd the ball to one side and pressing the side-back on the ball while cut off the passing route between the side-backs. Gamarra (Kaku) stayed central position in order to mark Remedi. The wingers usually stayed narrow but paid attention to the wingbacks. Also, sometimes pressing the ball-near side-back. Then the ball-sided midfielder would move higher to cover the space and mark the ball-near #8.
This would force Atlanta for several long-balls, although they could escape the pressure by switching the side or passing wide. Due to the fact that Atlanta used their 3 side-backs in build-up while only Phillips press them. Therefore Tata Martino’s side had a numerical advantage in the deep build-up. Although, the guests made a good job in several cases. In addition, NYRB could not press really high due to the fact that Atlanta was able to threat with long balls into depth. Targeting Garza or Escobar near the sideline.
Therefore, Chris Armas’ man usually occupied a narrow position during pressing and defensive phase. Operate with central-focused structure prevent Atlanta to access the middle area. If they tried to pass into NYRB’s defensive shape they often lost the ball quickly or forced backwards pass.
Intense second half
After the break, the game has changed. When the opponent lost the ball at Atlanta’s final third, the home side tried to quickly counter-attack. While these situations occurred rarely in the first half, it became more frequent in the second half. The reason is simple. Firstly, NYRB became more active in the attacking phase. They tried to possess the ball and attack more in order to equalise. Secondly, Atlanta changed their manner a little bit. They set back due to the lead and relied on counter-attacks. There were a couple of dangerous scoring chances from counter-attacks, however, none of their goals came from that.
Furthermore, often seen both teams positioning in a narrow zone and limiting the game in there. In order to battle intensely for airballs.
In this kind of situations, both sides aimed to pick up the ball and transition into an attack, especially Atlanta. They had the second goal from that situation.
Tata Martino’s men made their goal clear, they want to win the MLS Cup and with this strong performance they close to that goal. After this huge victory, NYRB has a highly difficult task if they want to advance into the MLS Cup final. Beating this Atlanta United more than 3 goals is definitely a hard job to accomplish, even in the home ground.
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