The Crew moves on, while Atlanta United goes home. I could not be happier. Here are a few things about this glorious win.
You Guys In A Hurry?
The Crew opened Sunday night’s match like a team that needed to put the game away early because they had someplace to be. They jumped on The Five Stripes and forced them back into their own end. A bad turnover allowed Darlington Nagbe to take advantage of an out-of-position center back and put the Crew in front in the ninth minute. A few minutes later, Atlanta gave Malte Amundsen so much space it looked like they were saying, “Go ahead, I dare ya to shoot!” So he did and put a perfectly placed strike into the upper right corner of the net for a two-goal lead in the 17th minute. This ultra-fast start never allowed Atlanta to do anything to fully quiet Crew fans and take them out of the game.
Turning The Tables
In Match 2, Atlanta pressured the Crew each time they gained possession in their own end. That created turnovers and made it difficult for the Crew to mount any kind of consistent attack. Sunday night, the tables were turned and life was made miserable for The Five Stripes when playing out of the back. Two of the Crew’s first three goals came from turnovers in Atlanta’s end.
Let’s Help The Guy
We all know Cucho has scored more than the lion’s share of goals for the team in recent months. So, it was almost like his teammates got together and decided to give him some help Sunday night. Four goals by four different players. Nagbe, who went three and a half months without a goal, now has two in his last four games. Amundsen got his first since that amazing game-winner he scored off of a corner kick against New England in early October. Diego Rossi now has two goals and four assists in five games. But Alex Matan? The diminutive Romanian had not scored in an MLS game since March 18th, but buried his opportunity and gave the Crew a three-goal lead.
An Obvious Pattern
Did anyone happen to count how many times Atlanta’s Tristan Muyumba fouled Aidan Morris over the course of the series? It started early in the first match and continued through Sunday night. That constitutes a pattern and obviously something that was a planned strategy. Sure, the referees in matches one and three called the fouls and handed out a yellow card in each, but it should have gone beyond that. I realize these referees are trying to use restraint and not overly affect the game, but Muyumba earned what should have been a second yellow in both of those matches. Sunday night, after he was already on a yellow card, the referee warned him yet again only to see him commit another hard foul on Morris. At that point, it isn’t on the referee. The player has decided his fate and should be punished accordingly. Muyumba should have been shown a second yellow. Also, how does Georgios Giakoumakis not get a yellow card for running over Nagbe from behind?
All The Right Moves
When the final whistle blew Sunday night, I felt Wilfried Nancy had coached an outstanding game. After his team looked unprepared mentally in Match 2, it was obvious he had them sharp and focused for the deciding game. While many coaches might be hesitant to make a lineup change and sit a regular starter in favor of a player who had made just two starts since late July, Nancy went with who he who he felt would most help the team and it paid off in spades. Mo Farsi got the start at wingback in favor of Julian Gressel and combined with Steven Moreira to give Atlanta playmaker Thiago Almada little space to work. Nancy also had his finger on the pulse of his team during the game. In the second half, as his defense was beginning to sink deeper and deeper into their own end, he implored the Crew to get up the field and begin to pressure Atlanta to slow their attack. Although they gave up two goals, the Crew defense was much better than in the second match. They continually hustled back to take away scoring chances. The wingbacks were getting back instead of chasing the Atlanta attack as in the previous game. I thought Nancy did a great job all around in Match 3.
The Crew next goes to Orlando November 25th. No more two-out-of-three. This is a one-game-winner-take-all for the right to move on to the conference final. Regardless of what happens, at least I don’t have to watch Giakoumakis take any more dives.