Coach’s Corner: A wild, satisfying roadtrip
The first road game of the season turned out to be a wild one! In soccer, away games are almost always complicated and challenging in terms of getting points. From the long travel the day before the game to the missing comforts of home and playing in front of an away crowd, there are many reasons for a possible advantage for the home team. At the end of the day, the game for both teams is played between white lines.
We fully expected going into the game that Atlanta would be riding a well-deserved high. The week before they won impressively on the road in Tampa. We started the game with the same lineup as last week except Pablo Campos replaced Max Griffin. After training for more than two months, there was no doubt Pablo was ready to compete in a meaningful game.
For the first game this year we were up against a team that did not start the game in a 4-4-2 system of play. Atlanta started the game in a 4-3-3 system and our 4-2-1-3 remained the same from the previous two games. I thought we started the game strong, organized and focused on both sides of the ball. this led to some really good early scoring opportunities. The tone of the game changed in an instant with a tough free kick call in a dangerous spot for Atlanta. 1-0 Atlanta on well struck free kick that Daryl Sattler very nearly saved. I felt like our response was impressive. With no let down at all we continued to play the way we started the game, creating good chances. Great service by Simone Bracalello on a corner and a great hard, near-post run and header by Brian Kallman leveled the game at one apiece. Brian took a great angle towards the ball on his goal and his heading technique was outstanding.
I thought our poorest play in the game came after each time we scored. Just 30 seconds after we equalized, we lost our shape and Daryl made an initial save, but the rebound ended up being a scramble in the box that hit Pitchkolan in the arm. A penalty was called. Was it intentional? No, but just like our PK later in the game, those kind of calls can go both ways. A nice penalty by them and we were once again down. As frustrated as I was about our mental lapses after we scored throughout the game, I was very pleased with our response to both to their goals. Even though we ended up down 2-1 at the half, we finished strong. This was extremely important mentally because our adjustments to the second half were more mental than tactical, and we felt good about getting back into the game.
We came out and played a very good 25 minutes of soccer and found ourselves very quickly going from 2-1 down to 3-2 up. The penalty was the result of sustained pressure to start the second half and our third goal was a continuation of that momentum. It was a great reaction at halftime to come out as a group ready to deal with being down. Both goals were the result of set pieces, but if you look deeper, those set pieces were the result of good soccer and scoring chances. To me, that is when you tend to convert your set piece chances.
We defended well the last 20 minutes and absorbed some good chances by Atlanta. I was proud of the guys’ effort not to give up the lead and get the three points. Etienne Barbara and Kentaro Takada both came on as subs and performed their roles admirably to see the game out. We had some real adversity in our first road game of the year, and hopefully can learn and get better from it.
The win sets up a great match at home this weekend against the Carolina RailHawks, a good side that is tied for first with us. What a great early season game. We know they are a balanced team and dangerous on both sides of the ball. We will need to continue to commit to improving each game for the result. It’ll be an exciting game Saturday night at the Metrodome, and the team and I all hope to see you there!
-By Manny Lagos
Photo by WJ Walsh, courtesy of the Atlanta Silverbacks
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