FC Dallas welcomes in Atlanta United to Frisco for the first time ever tomorrow during the annual July 4th celebration. We haven’t gotten to do a blogger interview in a while but today we get to welcome in Haris Kruskic from Dirty South Soccer to help preview Wednesday’s big game.
BDS: Atlanta continues to do well in year two, what has changes were made this year to ensure the team was progressing? Even if it is July, are there any new faces that Dallas fans need to know of that have helped contribute this season?
DSS: Tata Martino has made Atlanta multi-dimensional this season in terms of the formation, introducing a 3-5-2 to complement the 4-3-3 we were so accustomed to last season. Last season, the latter was very efficient against the teams that attempted to attack with Atlanta because those teams didn’t have the defense necessary to keep up with AU’s attacking threats. However, it struggled to break down teams that preferred to bunker and defend for most of the match.
With a 3-5-2, Martino forces defensive teams to bite the bait and allows them to have more possession. This subsequently leads to those teams losing their preferred defensive shape and makes it easier for Atlanta to counter. It’s odd seeing Atlanta have far less possession in the 3-5-2 than we’re normally used to in the 4-3-3, but it’s great to see the team be able to adapt and customize themselves based on who they’re playing. That’s growth.
As for the new faces, the main one would be Ezequiel Barco. He’s known more for being the most expensive transfer in MLS history than anything else, but it seems like Barco’s beginning to understand what Martino is asking of him in Atlanta. He still struggles in the 3-5-2, but thrives in the 4-3-3 as he showed last Saturday by scoring his fourth goal of the season and involving himself in nearly every attack. He’s good on the ball and complements Miguel Almiron really well.
BDS: What does Atlanta need to still work on here this season as the summer months begin?
DSS: It’s tough to ask more of a team that is currently top of the league, but I’ll say the toughest thing will be to adapt to the loss of Darlington Nagbe for the next 2-3 months as he deals with an adductor injury.
Martino will rely on Julian Gressel to step in and continue to work as a Swiss Army knife of sorts for the team. The German has seen almost all of his playing time come at the right winger/wingback role, but he moved centrally after Nagbe went out. His play in midfield has been suspect at times, but he’s certainly the best option for Atlanta at the moment.
They also need to adapt to including a player that hasn’t even joined the team yet. Eric Remedi, another midfielder from Argentina, is set to join Atlanta once the transfer window opens on July 10. With Nagbe out, Remedi will likely see playing time as soon as he makes his way stateside. Making him comfortable with the system quickly will be of utmost importance.
BDS: This could end up being a match that comes down to a high press offense like Atlanta against a defensive team like Dallas, what does Atlanta need to do to spring the upset on the road here?
DSS: Since Dallas is a defensive team, it would make a lot of sense for Atlanta to go with a 3-5-2 on Wednesday for the reasons I mentioned before: Draw Dallas out of their defensive shape by allowing them to have possession and then counter when given the opportunity. However, Martino has preferred the 4-3-3 as of late and could very well stick with that. The key however will still be to counter, not to maintain possession and try to break down one of MLS’ best defensive teams in Dallas.