MLS Footnotes: Carlos Bocanegra not making excuses for Atlanta United

By Doug McIntyre
FOX Sports activities Soccer Author

Editor’s Notice: MLS Footnotes takes you inside the foremost speaking factors across the league and throughout American soccer.

Carlos Bocanegra is not blaming accidents for the predicament his Atlanta United discover themselves in because the 2022 MLS common season enters the ultimate stretch.

A number of occasions throughout the course a 15-minute dialog with Atlanta’s vice chairman and sporting director on Friday afternoon, Bocanegra reiterated that dropping three key gamers within the backbone of the crew — veteran defensive midfielder Ozzie Alonso, longtime Premier League goalkeeper Brad Guzan and beginning U.S. males’s nationwide crew middle again Miles Robinson — to critical, season-ending illnesses early on cannot be an excuse for United, who sit twenty fourth out of 28 golf equipment within the general league standings. 

“I think that’s an understandable narrative from the outside, but we had our sights sets on trying to compete for the Supporters Shield,” Bocanegra advised FOX Sports activities forward of Sunday’s sport in Columbus in opposition to the Crew (5:30 p.m. ET, FS1/FOX Deportes/FOX Sports activities app). 

Now, merely making the playoffs could be a triumph, however even that will not be straightforward following Wednesday’s deflating 2-1 residence loss to the New York Purple Bulls. It isn’t not possible, although. With 9 matches remaining, the 5 Stripes are simply 4 factors out of the ultimate spot within the Japanese Convention.

“We didn’t play well against the Red Bulls and in a couple of other games,” Bocanegra mentioned. “But in the rest we’ve been competitive. We’re in a tough spot, but the last thing I or anyone else at the club is going to do is make excuses. We’re trying to get on with it, plug holes, and let’s see if we can get over the line.”

If the accidents do not excuse United’s struggles this season, they definitely assist clarify them. Atlanta had each purpose to aspire to the league’s finest file within the winter. Based on figures launched by the MLS Gamers Affiliation, the membership’s $21 million payroll topped the league in April, though they have been overtaken by the LA Galaxy and Toronto FC since.

Even for one of many deepest groups in MLS, having to do and not using a half-dozen essential contributors in any given sport hurts. Along with Alonso, Guzan and Robinson, fellow starters Andrew Gutman, Brooks Lennon and Ronald Hernández spent greater than 1 / 4 of the season on the shelf. Star ahead Josef Martínez missed seven video games. Only one participant on the roster, Marcelino Moreno, has appeared in all 25 matches for Atlanta this season.

Robinson was arguably one of the best defender in MLS when he ruptured an Achilles tendon in Might, however dropping him had knock-on results; it compelled coach Gonzalo Pineda to tweak his techniques, for one. With out the lightning-quick Robinson’s capability to race again and put out fires, Atlanta’s defenders sit deeper than they did earlier than.

In the meantime, Guzan’s calm presence within the objective was reassuring. It was by no means reasonable to anticipate his substitute, promising however inexperienced 20-year-old Rocco Ríos Novo, to offer the identical stage of safety as a 37-year-old two-time World Cup vet.

To their credit score, United continues to struggle for his or her playoff lives. Martínez scored his one centesimal profession objective deep into rubbish time in opposition to the Purple Bulls. It was the twelfth time this season that Atlanta has scored within the last quarter-hour of a match.

The gamers consider they’ll nonetheless attain the postseason if solely they’ll handle to keep away from the form of self-inflicted defensive errors which have so typically value them factors this yr. 

“The expectation for our team is to win,” Bocanegra mentioned.

Columbus could be a great place to begin.


1. Flight Crew

Beating the Black and Yellow in Ohio’s capital will not be straightforward for the 5 Stripes. After a sluggish begin, the Crew have quietly climbed up the standings and at the moment are fifth within the East with two video games in hand on the fourth-place Purple Bulls. 

Their ascension is thanks largely to the June arrival of Cucho Hernandez from England’s Watford. Cucho has six objectives in eight video games general, together with one in every of his final two.

However it truly started earlier than that: The Crew have misplaced simply as soon as since Might.

2. Let’s play two 

Columbus-Atlanta is the primary of two back-to-back video games on FS1 Sunday; Sporting Kansas Metropolis versus the Portland Timbers will observe at 8 p.m. ET.

If it is bizarre seeing Atlanta second-bottom within the East, it is each bit as unusual taking a look at SKC propping up the West. Accidents have harm Sporting, too, with star striker Alan Pulido dominated out for all of 2022 earlier than the season even began. But when you are going to be unhealthy, perhaps it is higher to be actually unhealthy.

If there’s any coach in MLS with sufficient fairness to outlive a season like this, it is SKC boss (and common supervisor) Peter Vermes. Whereas a vocal minority of followers have been calling for Vermes’ job for months, it might be downright surprising if MLS’s longest tenured coach is not on the sidelines at Youngsters’s Mercy Park in 2023.

3. LAFC all however in  

A lot for Charlotte being a possible lure sport for MLS’s runaway chief. After pasting the growth aspect 5-0 final weekend, LAFC picked up one other three factors Tuesday in opposition to Wayne Rooney’s D.C. United — their seventh victory in a row.

Steve Cherundolo’s aspect can turn into the primary membership to clinch a playoff berth after they journey to San Jose on Saturday — and so they do not even need to win to do it. A tie in opposition to the Earthquakes could be sufficient, and so would a defeat so long as the Seattle Sounders or Minnesota United lose too, or if the Colorado Rapids or Actual Salt Lake do not win. Suppose they like their probabilities?

4. Seeing Purple

Toronto FC’s already slim playoff hopes took a big hit after they squandered two factors at residence midweek in a 2-2 draw with New England. Now they need to attempt to make them up this weekend in Miami, in opposition to a crew unbeaten of their final 4 and enjoying their finest soccer of the yr.

TFC is simply three factors out of a postseason place. However Bob Bradley’s aspect nonetheless has work to do even with Italian reinforcements Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne now approaching full health.

Three of the 4 groups standing between Toronto and the security of seventh place have performed one fewer match — together with Inter Miami. It needs to be a enjoyable one in South Florida. 

5. Sound the alarm?

Coming off consecutive losses going into Friday’s marquee tilt in opposition to the LA Galaxy, there may be actual concern that the Sounders will not make the MLS Cup playoffs for the primary time of their historical past. We maintain ready for the CONCACAF champs to flip a swap and make a late run like they’ve so many occasions earlier than, but it surely hasn’t occurred but.

Possibly it will not. Nonetheless, Seattle actually does nonetheless have time to show issues round. Whereas the Sounders are languishing again in tenth out West, a win in Carson would propel all of them the way in which into sixth, a minimum of quickly.

They’re only one level behind Vancouver and the Galaxy, which occupy the ultimate two spots within the convention, and one behind Nashville and Portland, the 2 groups immediately in entrance of them within the desk.

The Sounders have performed one fewer sport than all 4.

One of many main soccer journalists in North America, Doug McIntyre has lined United States males’s and girls’s nationwide groups at a number of FIFA World Cups. Earlier than becoming a member of FOX Sports activities in 2021, he was a workers author with ESPN and Yahoo Sports activities. Comply with him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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