Atlanta United Vs CS Herediano: 3 things we learned – Defensive debacle

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HEREDIA, COSTA RICA- FEBRUARY 21: Payers of Atlanta United (USA) Dispute the ball with the player players of CS Herediano (CRC), during the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League 2019 at Eladio Stadium Rosabal Cordero on February 21, 2019 in Heredia Costa Rica. (Photo by John Durán/Getty Images)

Atlanta United played their first ever Champions League match against Herediano of Costa Rica in a 3-1 loss. Here are three things we learned.

Atlanta United lost its first-ever CONCACAF Champions League game by a score of 3-1. The performance was abysmal at best, with only a Julian Gressel goal to save this game from being a complete disaster.

The team looked out of sync collectively. Atlanta played a few preseason friendlies, while CS Herediano is nine matches into their league season. Atlanta’s lack of playing time was displayed in its lack of cohesion, whereas Herediano looked much more complete and fearless. The Costa Rican club was at an advantage by playing at home, but Atlanta looked atrocious regardless.

Atlanta was also plagued with some bad luck. Darlington Nagbe fired a fantastic shot on goal, but the shot was saved. Hector Villalba hit the post in the dying minutes, and Josef Martinez, last year’s MVP, glanced a header just wide of the post in the second half.

Here are three things we learned from the disappointing opener.

HEREDIA, COSTA RICA- FEBRUARY 21: Oscar Esteban Granados celebrates after scoring his team’s third goal, of CS Herediana, during the first leg of the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League at the Eladio Rosabal Cordero stadium on February 21, 2019 in Heredia Costa Rica. (Photo by John Durán/Getty Images)

3. Defensive struggles

Atlanta looked doomed in this match from the start, giving up a good look on goal to Herediano in the first couple of minutes. The backline, playing out of a 3-4-3, looked out of sorts and disconnected from each other and the rest of the pitch.

Michael Parkhurst played on the right, while Miles Robinson played in the middle and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez on the left. Many will be quick to point out Parkhurst’s familiarity with the middle of the backline, but it was Gonzalez-Pirez who made the first fatal mistake of the match.

The ball was played towards the Argentinian defender, who decided to head the ball back to goalkeeper Brad Guzan. The ball was not hit hard enough and a Herediano attacker got to the ball before Guzan and chipped it into the gaping net, just seven minutes after kick-off.

On Herediano’s second goal, the Five Stripes were hit in transition. However, because Gonzalez-Pirez and Robinson, who are the last line of defense, were sucked in towards the ball to make a play, the Herediano attack found an unmarked man who beat Guzan in a one-on-one after finding space. And then, Julian Gressel left his man unmarked in the second half on a set piece, which led to Herediano’s third goal.

The defense looked disconnected all night and Herediano really should’ve scored a few more goals, if not for some heroics from Guzan and Robinson. Their discipline at the back was horrible all night, allowing plenty of space to Herediano to find successful looks on goal. The problems are certainly fixable, but Atlanta now has less than a week to figure it out.

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