Last week I said it couldn’t get any worse, but I I was wrong. It did. The Loons lost one that managed to be even worse than Portland. The snowy conditions obviously didn’t help at all on Sunday evening.
Now this week, I do have some positive words to go with. The attack, while not looking great, did create some chances as well. The Loons showed they can hold and push to create chances. If MNUFC can continue to do this and improve on it they will have a potent and threatening offensive attack as the weeks go bye.
The midfield also did (in comparison to last week) a fairly decent job, both in being able to create chances and get the ball out of Atlanta’s grasp.
On the attack, while the crosses weren’t an issue, getting shot on goal certainly was. The Loons outshot Atlanta 17-10. But, five of those shots were off target. Six of those were blocked.
On the other side of the pitch, the back line was just cut through like butter yet again. The four backs needed to cut off the attackers and stay in position.
John Alvbåge didn’t make it look any better. He needs to cut off the defender and get big. That is something he didn't do, and yet again let in a really bad goal.
Now unfortunately, Alvbåge did get hurt. The severity of the injury is luckily nothing too severe, but he likely won’t see action for 1-3 weeks. This will be Shuttleworth’s opportunity to shine and prove that he belongs.
As well as giving Shuttleworth the opportunity, maybe a fifth defender needs to be added to the mix to give a healthy amount of protection in front of the net.
There probably isn't reason to panic just yet. The season is long and as KatoSportsGirl wrote, this team has enough talent to mix it up with most clubs, especially once they gel. The tweet below, for those into some advanced analysis, shows that perhaps the quality of chances was closer than we thought and MNUFC’s forcing Atlanta to build from wide is usually a good thing.
Offensively, this team has shown the ability to at least get into some decent situations, even though the final pass or shot in the opposition third has been lacking. With improved fitness and cohesion, perhaps we’ll begin to see some open play goals in the coming weeks as well as a higher utilization of a decent offensive bench.
Woof, where to begin?
Being beaten by a team with more talent having a good day is one thing, not playing basic soccer with basic ideas is another. Yes, Atlanta was the favorite coming in due to their high-powered offensive talent but there really is no excuse on some of the goals MNUFC gave up. Yes, the weather was going to be a challenge, as were the expectations from the crowd in the club’s first home MLS game. However, if your opponent is a constant threat, how do you leave so much room behind you for them to exploit? Why do you, as the fullback, double up on a central midfielder while leaving your marker wide open to blow past you? As the centerbacks, how do you not communicate this to your lateral partners and midfield? Language may be a barrier, but point or grunt or do something, anything, to stem the tide quickly turning against you.
And before anyone chimes in with the "continuity" argument: there's a distinct difference between not knowing each other due to lack of time together, and not executing simple principles which every pro should know by now. It's not a black and white issue, but the argument that the club hasn't had much time to prepare kind of falls on deaf ears when they themselves delayed many steps needed to become a fully-operating and up-to-date franchise. Of course, MNUFC will be compared to Atlanta for better or worse, but it's hard not to be a little envious of the speed with which Atlanta operated when getting their franchise into first gear.
Fans need to exhibit patience from this expansion side, we’ll likely see more rough moments and in pretty large quantities. However, these players and this staff need to show the capability to pragmatically make the changes necessary in order to represent themselves as a professional club with aspirations of remaining competitive even in games where they’re underdogs. Otherwise the chance to do something special in year one by winning over the general public might take much longer than we all anticipated.