Last year, a hapless LA Galaxy went down south and were completely destroyed by Atlanta United inside twenty minutes. The defeat was so overwhelming, so comprehensive in its entirely I wrote 1300 words on the subject matter.
To get an idea of what Sigi Schmid’s team are facing this Saturday we had a chat with Haris Kruskic of Dirty South Soccer, Atlanta United’s premier source for Five Stripes coverage.
LAG Confidential: 19-year old Ezequiel Barco made his debut on Sunday vs. NYCFC. How does the $15M Designated Player fits into Atlanta United’s plans?
Dirty South Soccer: Barco definitely showed flashes of his quality during the 30 minutes he was on the field last week and during the preseason. It’s clear that he’s good on the ball, unafraid to take on opposing defenders, and can finish as well as any player on the team after his preseason goal against Minnesota.
Although Tata Martino has implemented a 3-5-2 for most of the season so far, the general belief is that he’ll return to a 4-3-3 once the expected starting attackers are all fully healthy. It fits Atlanta’s personnel better and Barco can slot right into that left wing position that is most familiar to him.
LAG Confidential: Speaking of Sunday, what happened in the player tunnel between Josef Martinez and a fan during halftime?
Dirty South Soccer: It was odd, but not surprising. Martinez is a very passionate player to say the least. It appeared that a fan said something to him as he was walking by, Martinez took offense to it, and he attempted to confront the fan until other players and team staff stopped him. No one knows what was said. He was already having a tough match and was dealing with a hand injury, so fan criticism only seemed to escalate Martinez’s temper.
LAG Confidential: Lately Tata has been deploying a 3-5-2 formation with Julian Gressel in particular thriving as a wingback. Is there a possibility ATL considers a more offensive-minded attack in the future?
Dirty South Soccer: I touched on it a little before, but going back to the 4-3-3 is a strong possibility once Martino thinks Barco is ready to start and Tito Villalba returns from his hamstring injury(which should be this week).
However, with Gressel in particular, I think we’ll see him more often as a “defender” at the right back spot. I put defender in quotes because Atlanta’s fullbacks get so high up the field that sometimes it doesn’t even feel like they’re playing as true defenders. Gressel played the position once Barco came on last week and that was the first time we ever saw that from him, but I think it was a bit of a prelude for what can eventually be expected from Martino’s side.
Thanks to Haris Kruskic for the chat!