Post Match Reaction: Legion v Atlanta United

The 3 Sparks Fall to the 5 Stripes 4-0

While the score line looks like Legion were battered and bruised all night long, but that was simply not the case. The first half was competitive, and for about 30′, the Legion were the more dominant squad. Let’s talk about it.

Starting Line Ups

As we see with these starting line ups, Atlanta United was playing their starting XI that we’ll more than likely see against Sporting Kansas City. For the 5 Stripes, this was the last match before the MLS Regular Season starts, so we were seeing the best of Atlanta. The biggest note here is USMNT player Miles Robinson and George Campbell who has been on the radar for many USMNT fans. These are two of the best center backs in the MLS, that alone should tell you the gap between the USL and MLS.

On the other side of the pitch, Legion FC rolled out what is close to what I consider our best XI. Our starting striker has only been in Birmingham for less than a week, and he’s coming from the second tier for Slovakia. Horvat is a great talent, and we’ll talk about that later, but the gap between world class defenders with two months of training going against a USL striker who has only trained for ONE WEEK is one heck of a gap. That’s not far off of what the rest of the squad has dealt with.

First 30′

Okay, so the match started with a 4′ own goal by our captain Phanuel Kavita. Not great. Why that happened? Could’ve been a lot. Poor touch, unexpected pressure, or the fact freshly wetted turf plays A LOT faster than grass. It was a freak play, don’t read into that.

After that, we saw what this offense could do. The team was cutting down the Legion attack in the middle. Anderson Asiedu or Thomas Vancaeyezeele would shut down the Atlanta attack in the defensive midfield. They would open the space in the middle and pass the ball to either Bruno Lapa or Enzo Martinez. From Enzo or Bruno, the ball would work its way to the wide spaces on the outside of the box. We would work the ball into the box, take a shot, have it deflect off of a defender, and go out for a corner. We did this 6 times. Could the finishing be better? Obviously. We want goals, but you can’t create goals without chances and we created those.

So, what about set pieces? People are upset because we did not directly create goals from set pieces, but I think it’s okay. Of the set pieces we had, I can only think of one bad set piece. It was a corner than Enzo Martinez played short and flat, easily got cleared. Other than that, we put our guys in positions to get their head on the ball, take second chance shots, or recover the ball and created an entirely new attack off that corner. That’s a successful corner, not just getting 3 goals from 6 corners.

31′-60′

Alright, this is where it got bad. We were completely undone in the back on three occasions. First came from a high line that was exploited by a long ball over the top. Jonny Dean recovered to top the attack, got turned around and allowed a 1-on-1 with the keeper. This happened again with another goal where the Atlanta attacker had a 1-on-1 with Van Oekel, where the goal scorer went 5 Hole to finish. The back line was rough at times, which was shocking for a backline who had played with each other for a full year now, but this might be blamed on a new system to play.

61′-90′

The last 30′ fizzled out into nothingness. A few chances here and there for both squads, but it all felt like both squads going through it at times. This section of play is where we saw a few great chances for Legion and a great ball to catch out the defense, but not quite enough chemistry to know exactly where to be quite yet. This is more or less where we got to see players and make some opinions on systems and players themselves. So, let’s get into some players.

Legion Post Match Graphic

Player Breakdowns

Edi Horvat

Let’s talk about our new Number 9. I really like this guy. I know some fans were not impressed, but I highly recommend going back and watching again. His speed is ridiculous for his size. Oh, and his size? He forced the Atlanta back line to make decisions. Yeah, he didn’t draw fouls or get those shots on target. He will in the USL. There were several times Horvat was brought down by Campbell or Robinson and it was either let go or the foul called on Horvat. Why is that good? Because there isn’t a single defender in the USL at those center back’s level. USL defenders will make a mistake or simply let him go because they fear getting booked or giving up a penalty. He’s the real deal.

Enzo Martinez

Look, Enzo isn’t flashy. He isn’t this athletic freak. He isn’t any of that. He’s an enforcer, he’s a playmaker, he’s an insanely smart player. While he didn’t create the chances we thought he would immediately, he caused havoc. While his set pieces were literally a bit flat, that’s okay. As of today, I want Bruno Lapa on corners, but Enzo can only get better on those corner routines.

Anderson Asiedu

Anderson looked great. I really liked his role. He played a little deeper today, but would fill the space either in the offensive line or defensive line. He made a few great runs, good tackles, and got into great spaces to make a play. My major con is that he had several wide open shots and chose to move away from goal and end a goal scoring chance for the squad.

Back Line

Look, it wasn’t great all the time. I love this backline, truly. They seemed over matched and didn’t seem on the same page as each other. We’ll see, but there’s not a lot to say here.

Holding Midfield

This essentially means Thomas Vancaeyezeele, Anderson Asiedu, and Enzo Martinez at times. This was the strongest part of this team, no question. They created attacking chances, they destroyed attacking chances for Atlanta, and were so fluid in the attack and defense. This will be the highlight for this club in this upcoming season because they will literally only get better.

Left Back/Left Wing

This became a major conversation for the fans. Many fans were very upset with the left back situation, which was primarily Ryan James and Mikey Lopez, until about the 60′. I personally LOVE Ryan James on the left wing, but we missed him on the defensive side of the ball, but I think Mikey and Ryan tend to play more in the left midfield, not the left wing, which are two very different things.

Marlon Santos and Macky Diop

They got some play time, but I was pretty impressed by both. We saw Marlon play on the wing and as a striker. His striking instinct was really good, but his ability to get efficient passes to the back post was absolutely fantastic. Macky didn’t get much time, about 10′, but his talent is clear. He seems like our JJ Williams replacement, but he seems like he might have a higher ceiling from this VERY short window. Also, he has AWESOME hair. Just saying.

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