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MLS CUP Favorites: Atlanta United’s tactical profile

Atlanta United FC

With a new stunning stadium, a coach of the year, two players in the Best XI of the season, a history record goal scorer, Atlanta United has definitely caught the eye of everyone.

Overall style

The 3-5-2:

Tata Martino (former Barcelona and Argentina manager) lines up his men in a flexible, energetic and disciplined 3-5-2 formation. In a defensive state, the latter would switch to a 5-3-2 shape with the wingbacks tucking in: Gressel (on the right) and Bello or Garza (on the left). They would also try to force the opposition’s wide players towards the touch line to force them into making bad passes and influence their decision making; now this process might mean that they would leave their defensive positions. And that’s where the team’s flexibility shows its value:

The three midfielders; Remedy, Nagbe and Almiron would cover these spaces specially Nagbe and Almiron while Remedy shields the central defenders.

Nagbe is a dynamic box to box midfielder that can pick passes from the defense or Remedy but can also help a high press performed by the strikers, Nagbe can also cause overloads for the opposition’s defense.

While Almiron, with 13 goals and 11 assists is one of the league’s best number 10’s.


That way going up the field, a new shape appears: 5-1-2-2 with the Fullbacks going up and down the touchline, Remedy shielding the central backs, Nagbe and Almiron playing behind the two strikers.


The wingbacks will provide width in the second and final third of the pitch, will stretch the opposition’s defensive line, creating overloads leading to a decisional crisis for opposing fullbacks which will make then, getting behind an easier task to complete. This operation has been quite effective with players like Gressel providing 12 assists this season so far (2nd on the league).

“El Trio”:

Pace, energy, awareness and skill are all crucial factors in the build up of this attractive side, they originate from the wingbacks but mostly from “El Trio”: Josef Martinez, Almiron and Villaba.
Martinez is the league’s top scorer (33 goals) and is a record breaker for goals scored in a single MLS season, he is gifted with pace, awareness and technical abilities to breakthrough any defense in the league.
Villaba is an effective goal scorer with great movement off the ball to make himself available in dangerous areas of the final third. Almiron plays behind these two, despite “El Trio” having a lot of freedom, he arguably has the most of it, Almiron steps in space created by his teammates and drops to collect the ball and offers passing options between the lines.

Counter attacks:

Therefore getting the ball to them from the back is a priority, especially when the team sits back in it’s 5-3-2 defensive state. Now this works in two fashions:

  • Having one of “El Trio” (mainly Almiron) dropping between the lines to offer himself for Nagbe or Remedy, and once he receives the ball, it’s only a matter of time until the defense starts getting anxious since his dribbling abilities and approach in one on one are pretty effective, let alone the dangerous strikers in front of him stepping in to the space he had created.
  • Almiron would get back next to central midfield to support the left wing back or stay behind the strikers. While the strikers are only restricted to be at the center of the pitch in that defensive state. Therefore once the defense makes a turn over they could be their first choice passes and unleash their pace and go on to create a dangerous situation and eventually score a goal. That way one of “El Trio” would be running with the ball while the two others are stepping in to spaces left behind.

Energy, discipline, attractiveness, determination and unbreakable partnerships, Tara Martino‘s men could be on their way to the club’s first MLS cup.