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Defensive mistakes doom Atlanta United in CCL opener against Herediano


Atlanta United’s defense experienced a couple rough breakdowns to put them in a rough spot after their Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 opener.

The Five Stripes at least have an away goal to work with after they fell to Herediano 3-1 thanks to a series of defensive mistakes in a rather chippy match in Heredia, Costa Rica.

The trouble started early for Atlanta as a couple of defensive breakdowns had them down 2-0 after a little more than a half hour. Herediano could have gone in front in less than a minute when Aldo Magana missed a header from six yards out from goal, but it wouldn’t be long before the home fans got to celebrate.

Sloppy passing along their backline led to the opening goal in the seventh minute. A poor headed back pass by Leandro Gonzalez-Pirez allowed Jose Ortiz to chip a shot over a helpless Brad Guzan.

The second goal came after the Atlanta defense failed to mark Randall Azofeifa as he made a run down the center of defense. He received a perfect through pass from Ortiz and easily beat Guzan.

Atlanta was able to wrestle some momentum just before the break when Julian Gressel took a shot that floated into the net after a deflection off a Heradino defender, but the optimism didn’t last long. The home side went back in front just five minutes into the second half off a set piece. Azofeifa curled a perfect ball in off a free kick to pick out a sliding Oscar Granados for the finish.

Atlanta had their chances to find a second away goal. Josef Martinez had a glaring miss from the doorstep in the 70th minute. Darlington Nagbe had a nice shot at the 78 minute mark that required a great save from Daniel Cambronero. Finally, Hector Villalba smacked the post from long range late in stoppage time, but they couldn’t find anything and had to take the two goal loss.

The two sides face off in the second leg of the tie back in Atlanta next Thursday.


  1. From what I saw, another problem with Atlanta is that they weren’t putting in as much effort. I don’t know if it was A. They thought they were so much better that they didn’t need to play hard, B. They didn’t take the game seriously, not caring much about the CCL, or C. They were lacking match fitness from playing this early, in pre-season. However, Kansas City looked much more lively, so the time of year should not have mattered. Herediano won most every 50/50 ball. On the second goal, Herediano had basically a 2 on none right down the middle. That should never happen. I don’t know if that means they need 4 in the back or there was a terrible breakdown as they failed to track back or what, but it was shocking to see a good team get so outplayed.

  2. Atlanta under Tata

    -(Almiron, Martinez, Gressel, Remedi and Nagbe in diff. form.)
    -(a backline that should not have changed)


    Atlanta under Frank de Boer





    1. Coaching (is EVERYTHING). 2. formation 3. Player selection. Where was Atlanta and who were those guys on the field????? You you go through the season, win an MLS championship is dramatic fashion, and decide to change everything around. Dramatic changes destroys team chemistry, especially if you had a proven system that already works, make subtle changes and keep it moving. Changing things up top, in the middle and in the back is a recipe for disaster (and it showed)…..hence, like TFC, looked lost on the field.

    • The formation differences aren’t as much as you are making them out to be its essentially the same 5-4-1 they played at NYRB in the playoffs in the match they were just trying to keep close to preserve their lead from the home match. Considering both Bello and Gressel can play as FBs. Escobar is injured hence the need for Gressel to play as the WB. If you move Gressel out of CM that requires Larentowicz to move in because Nagbe hasn’t practiced for two weeks as he either solved a family situation or tried to get a move to Columbus depending on whose story you believe. I think that the plan here was to keep the game close and then dominate the home leg (which still could happen) but they weren’t expecting mid season form Herediano to put up such a fight. Barco continues to struggle, he holds a lot of possession but seems unable either to get his shot off or find the pass to a teammate. Pity will be just as good if not better than Almiron he and J.Martinez just need more time to get on the same page. With the exception of Pity these guys have all played together for awhile, they have plenty of chemistry they just aren’t in season form and they played in a tough environment on the road against a team that has been playing meaningful matches for a month and a half.
      On another note if I’m an MLS GM who needs a LW, I don’t know why I would look any further than Jimmy Marin.


        “The formation differences aren’t as much as you are making them out to be….” hahahahahaha…..Did you even watch the game? Did you observe how lost and wide open the defense and midfield was (especially on the second goal 2:08) or are you just going off the highlights lol. Players did not understand the formation. Slow moving Larenowicz in the middle even after they were getting over runned?? 3 man backline and Parkhurst not playing center?? Nagbe on the bench?? I think it was formation, player selection and coaching. Not being ready is not an excuse

      • Larentowicz played 29 matches in midfield last season so its not like its unheard of and as I pointed out necessitated by the Escobar injury and Nagbe leaving camp and only just returning there is no way he was match fit to go 45 to 60 minutes. And judging by the bench roster there weren’t many other ready option in defense or midfield. The ATL roster is very thin in defense which is more a reflection of the front office.
        Let’s not forget the great Tata Martino loss 4-0 in the season opener last season. Using a backline that included Garza, Espinoza, Larentowicz, and Escobar.

    • Maybe more important than the attacking changes are the defensive changes. I have seen lots of statistical analysis that it takes 3 to 8 games for a new defensive lineup to match or exceed what was the case before. And that includes cases where the new individuals were better than those they replaced. Only time will tell if the new personnel and arrangement will be an improvement.

  3. This result was almost as bad as Toronto’s. You would expect the MLS champs to do much better.

    Apparently losing your coach, and your #2 goal scorer matter.

    • Doesn’t it in every team? Real Madrid looks like some JV team impersonating Real Madrid most weekends this year. This was to be expected. Even if we had kept the same system and the same coach we are still blooding new players who were not regulars in the lineup. That alone would be enough to cause a stumble.

      My biggest disappointment is that we didn’t get the second goal after having three really good chances.

    • I thought that we played ok for this point in the season. When you’re in preseason form and play a match like that against a team in mid season form your mistakes will cost you. It will look different next week on something other than concrete covered with indoor/outdoor carpet.


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