October 1, 2007

Silverbacks Post-mortem

A 4-0 loss in the title game is a little hard to swallow. It's easier when you weren't expected to be there in the first place, but it's still tough. Seattle was the best team in the league this year, they spanked Colorado of MLS, they are very deserving champions.

Even with the success this year, there are some things in the Monkey House that need to be addressed:
  • First priority should be securing this roster for next season. Most everyone should be back according the word on the street, but you never really know in this league.
  • Some greater diversity in style of play and tactical variance is greatly needed. The team rarely changed out of its 4-4-2 formation, and even more rarely changed from its direct style of play. That works against the lesser teams in this league, but teams like Seattle eat that up. With the talent available and the time to train them, it is surprising that we didn't see more variety.
  • During the final, I kept waiting to see the team go to 3 in the back, or 3 forwards, or 5 in the midfield, something to chase the game and try to get back into it. It was obvious at halftime that we weren't creating enough chances and a change was needed.
  • Putting all your hopes and dreams on a hot goalkeeper can only get you so far. McIntosh carried this team in the second half of this season a long way, but he can't do everything.
  • A conservative style is fine in this situation, but there were not enough true counterattacks. There were 2 or 3 times in the first half where an attack was built up and the 'Backs looked dangerous. However, there were many more times when the ball was just launched high and long and Millwood and Ukah had to chase. Atlanta should be deadly on counters with its speed, but it never really happened this year.
  • The shape was out of whack all night. I don't know what happened in Seattle, but it looked like ten guys running around for a good portion of the game. That wasn't normal for the team, and killed them against a well-organized team like Seattle.
  • I'll never understand the late season benching of Antoniuk, especially when you're just going to keep launching long balls. He was obviously the point person for the attack up front, leading the league in assists, and he was missed. Ukah and Millwood are not the same type of player. Ukah was very opportunistic, scoring on half-chances, but the team could've been more effective.
  • All season, our subsitutions never changed the team's shape. They were always position for position. Again, that can only get you so far. Championship teams can adjust to what their opponents give them. The sub patterns were very predictable as the season went on, except for bringing on a defender in the last five minutes of a game when you're down 3-0.
  • There's so much potential for more with the talent on this team. The success this year is great, but these are issues that have to be addressed in order to sustain it.
That's enough to start the discussion. Chime away in the comments if you like.

All that said, this is the best season for an Atlanta pro soccer team since 1995. Congratulations to everyone involved for an amazing accomplishment, and best of luck in continuing this upward trend.


jason said...

I don't wish to be critical of your analysis of the final match. Although I greatly appreciate your enthusiasm and level of dedication to the sport, unfortunately, your responses are frequently off the mark. Of course, I have the liberty of seeing daily performance of each player and full knowledge of injury status. The final result of the USL Championship was disappointing to myself and players alike. We felt the final score was not indicative of the game itself. The team played with enough heart to get back into the match but Eylander had a fantastic game and was equal to the task. If you watch the game closely, the team progressed from a 4-4-2 to a 3-5-2 moving Rios to the middle and Hayes to outside left in the 2nd half. This created several more offensive opportunities that did not fall for us. I believe the second goal from Seattle came against the run of play in the 2nd half. If one of the early chances gone in, a different game might have transpired. Regardless, the team pushed forward and a third goal came as a result of deflection. With your close attention to detail, remarkably, you did not recognize the change in formation. By the close of the match the team had progressed to a 3-4-3 with Bobo, Lancaster and Jarun in the back, Hayes, Buete, Rivillo and Kandji in the midfield and Anyoniuk, Millwood and Wolfe up front. We failed to defend the last corner of the game resulting in the fourth goal. This was my personal disappointment. I take full credit for that goal against us. We were so concerned about scoring that defense was forgotten on the corner kick. I should have addressed that issue earlier. Certainly, I do not wish to cheapen a championship by Seattle. They are an exceptional team that played to the height of their ability. Regardless, I am very proud of the steps made by the team and organization. I look forward to 2008!!! Again, feel free to email me with questions. I will attempt to reply when time enables.


Longshoe said...

Thank you very much for the comments, very classy move and it's very much appreciated. Please be as critical as you like, everyone sees the game differently and the discussion is what makes things so interesting. At least it does to me.

I agree, the game was closer than the final score. Eylander was quality throughout, and made things really difficult.

I should've mentioned my confusion on the move early in the second half. I noticed Rios had slid in more centrally and Hayes was covering the left side by himself, but it was unclear that it was actually a formation change. I commented while watching the game that it reminded me of how DC United has used Josh Gros at times, playing almost as a combination left back/left mid, leaving the whole side for him to handle. It wasn't clear to me, watching on TV, that a complete shift had occurred to a 3-5-2.

I was sloppy and didn't mention that the Wolfe substitution did push the formation to three forwards, thanks for reminding me. My fault...

You are very correct in the fact that the team pushed hard all night and never gave up, even after the third goal made a comeback all but impossible. The fighting spirit is something that has never been questioned by anyone I've talked to, and something to be very proud of.

You have every right to be proud of the accomplishments of the 2007 season, it's the best season Atlanta soccer fans have seen in far too long. I want to reiterate my congratulations to your staff, your players, and the organization for a successful season.

Jefa said...

yeah, yeah, yeah... good game, great season... whatever.

but could someone please explain to me the thing with the beards?

Rios, who has the perpetual 5 o'clock shadow anyway, is about the only one who can pull it off. However, the "Lumberjack" look is generally not a good one for the team.

Maestro said...

Dang, i think Jason still has a lip imprint on his butt.
Backtrack much?

Longshoe said...

Do you even understand what "backtrack" means?

I clarified an error I made (on the third forward) and took Jason's comments at face value on the formation change. It didn't look like it to me, I sure couldn't tell when they changed to 3-5-2 and wouldn't have guessed it until Jason said he did, and I said just as much. Now, allow me to expound on that...

The team did not look organized when the formation change was made, especially in the midfield. Hayes was still covering the defense, and just making more runs forward. Rios was drifting all over the place and not acting as a true attacking center mid. There were gaps in the midfield, due to the lack of structure. Look at the second goal, while it came against the run of play, Alcaraz-Cuellar had an unopposed shot from about twenty-five yards. That shouldn't happen.

Rivillo coming on for Liendo added a true schemer, but the shape still looked unbalanced. Wolfe coming on added to the lack of structure as the left side was still being handled by Hayes alone (when they went to 3 in the back, no one ever shifted over to the left, Jarun & Bobo stayed central and Lancaster stayed on the right). Rivillo played in front of Buete, and Kandji played right mid. The forwards had no shape, the three of them just bunched in the middle.

It looked like the team had never played in these formations, in training or in games, due to the lack of organization.

I've been critical of moves made all season, and I've also praised moves as well. It's not all or nothing, you know.

bj said...

maestro, I don't understand why some people just have to be adversarial all the time. I think that shoes' comments were right on and your response was uncalled for.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... first of all I would like to say that I am excited with the success of the silverbacks this season. Making it to the final was a great step and hopefully it gets repeated next year with a win. While I can (I guess) appreciate that coach took the time to get on here and say something, the "your responses are frequently off the mark" comment makes me wonder how often you pay attention to what anyone on here says? Why the hell do you have to defend yourself to anyone who writes or reads this blog? You're setting yourself up for stress and misery because you're never going to get everyone to think the way you do. There's not a sports franchise in the nation that has the WHOLE support of the city they play in. Atlanta is never going to completely support the silverbacks, I hate to break it to everybody, because I wish they would. There are people in the stands that have played and coached at a higher level than you have.... that happens everywhere. That doesn't mean you're wrong all the time. There are things written on this blog that you know are right, and things that are wrong. It's all opinions!!!!! You're not perfect and no coach is. The fact of the matter is you're the coach of the team and no one else is so you need to worry about other things like your players and the silverbacks making a bigger impact in Atlanta. You're never going to do that by trying to indvidually sway the opinions of everyone who disagrees with you because you JUST CAN'T. The people who you should worry about are the people who pay your check. Now I can only imagine the stupid responses this will generate about how I hate the silverbacks but that's far from the truth. I want this team to be succesful and want to know that my coach is more worried about the team than arguing on message boards.

Anonymous said...

by the way... those people who disagree sometimes still support the team, despite what some drunk frat boys believe.

bj said...

Are you kidding me? Do you really think this guy is the Coach? He is just pulling your leg.

Longshoe said...

BJ- I don't think any of those "jokers" could explain things the way Jason did. I'm almost certain that it was Coach.