United shows dis­ci­pline in 2-2 draw

The squad is 2-0-1 in pre­sea­son games in­volv­ing the first team.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - SPORTS - By Doug Rober­son drober­[email protected]

LOS AN­GE­LES — Play­ing in a cold, wet rain, At­lanta United was for­tu­nate to hold on to a 2-2 draw with LAFC at Banc of Cal­i­for­nia Sta­dium on Sun­day.

At­lanta United goals from Pity Martinez and Ju­lian Gres­sel in the first half were matched by goals from Adrien Perez and Car­los Vela in the sec­ond half for an LAFC at­tack that failed to take ad­van­tage of its nu­mer­ous scor­ing chances in the fi­nal 10 min­utes when fa­tigue be­came a fac­tor. Most of the Five Stripes were play­ing their first stretch of 90 min­utes this pre­sea­son.

“I saw some very good things, es­pe­cially about the dis­ci­pline and how we want to play,” At­lanta United man­ager Frank de Boer said.

At­lanta United, which is 2-0-1 in pre­sea­son games in­volv­ing the first team, will play one more friendly Wed­nes­day against L.A. Galaxy be­fore re­turn­ing Thurs­day to At­lanta. Its pri­mary kit un­veil will be Fri­day at Mercedes-Benz Sta­dium and it will open its sea­son Feb. 21 against Here­di­ano in Costa Rica in the CONCACAF Cham­pi­ons League.

De Boer said on Fri­day that he was tak­ing Sun­day’s game se­ri­ously and he rolled out a strong start­ing 11 as proof. Brad Guzan started as goal­keeper, with Michael Parkhurst, Miles Robin­son and Le­an­dro Gon­za­lez Pirez as the three cen­ter­backs. The wing­backs were Gres­sel on the right and Ge­orge Bello on the left, with Jeff Lar­en­tow­icz and Eric Remedi as the cen­tral mid­field­ers. Pity Martinez and Eze­quiel Barco flanked striker Josef Martinez.

On de­fense, At­lanta United played a com­pact 5-4-1 that cut out the seams in the mid­dle of the field. When the team re­gained pos­ses­sion and moved for­ward, the for­ma­tion mor­phed into a 3-4-3. Some­times, the wing­backs were part of the three men fur­thest for­ward. Some­times, it was Pity Martinez and Barco join­ing Josef Martinez.

As de Boer has stressed the first three weeks of train-

ing camp, At­lanta United worked to first get into its shape on de­fense be­fore it pressed. As a re­sult, LAFC ap­peared to main­tain a ma­jor­ity of pos­ses­sion, but had a dif­fi­cult time tak­ing ad­van­tage of that ad­van­tage.

Af­ter be­ing un­der siege for first 10 min­utes, At­lanta United be­gan to take con­trol that it would main­tain for the next 40-50 min­utes and grabbed a 1-0 lead on a free kick by Pity Martinez. Barco won a foul af­ter a strong run down the left chan­nel. Pity Martinez curled the kick into the up­per left corner from 21 yards in the 18th minute for his sec­ond goal this pre­sea­son.

At­lanta United in­creased its lead to 2-0 in the 29th minute on a goal by Gres­sel, as­sisted by Josef Martinez. Barco was again in­volved, send­ing Josef Martinez through about 8 yards from goal. Fac­ing a tight an­gle on the right side that would have made a shot dif­fi­cult, Martinez played the ball back to the on­rush­ing Gres­sel, who hit it with the out­side of his right boot and into the op­po­site corner.

At­lanta United con­tin­ued to con­trol the game in the first 10 min­utes of the sec­ond half, but de Boer be­moaned the fact that it failed to get the cru­cial third goal that would have likely killed the game.

“Some­thing about that last pass, the ac­cu­racy wasn’t that good,” he said.

LAFC cut At­lanta United’s lead to 2-1 in the 58th minute with a goal by tri­al­ist Perez. It was an odd play in which Robin­son ei­ther slipped or fell down on a turf soaked by a near con­stant rain. Perez kept go­ing, rounded Guzan and scored into an empty net. De Boer said he thought Robin­son was tripped, but no foul was called.

Af­ter miss­ing on at least two more good op­por­tu­ni­ties, LAFC earned the ty­ing goal in the 82nd minute when Vela slammed a left-footed low shot into the op­po­site corner. De Boer wasn’t happy with the ef­fort of his de­fend­ers on the play.

“He showed his pass­port and ev­ery­body let him go,” de Boer said. “That’s not the case we want to see. Some­body has to step in. No one made one charge. It can hap­pen also dur­ing the im­por­tant games, in MLS or in CONCACAF. We have to be aware so those things shouldn’t hap­pen again.”

LAFC fin­ished with eight shots on goal to At­lanta United’s three, and three corner kicks to At­lanta United’s one.

Over­all, At­lanta United seemed pleased with what it learned about it­self in its first real test this pre­sea­son.

“It’s not about re­sults, it’s what you get out of the game,” Guzan said. “These are the games that you want. You don’t want easy games where you are win­ning by crazy score­lines. These are real games, real teams, real mo­ments that ul­ti­mately make you bet­ter.”

Etc.: Dar­ling­ton Nagbe will not train with At­lanta United while the team re­mains in Cal­i­for­nia. He has trained with the team since it ar­rived in the Los An­ge­les area Feb. 1. The team has one more match, Wed­nes­day against the L.A. Galaxy, be­fore re­turn­ing Thurs­day to At­lanta. The club de­clined to say why Nagbe won’t train or who made the de­ci­sion. Nagbe has de­clined sev­eral in­ter­view re­quests.

HYOSUB SHIN / [email protected]

Pity Martinez scored one of At­lanta United’s two first-half goals against LAFC on Sun­day in Los An­ge­les.

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