Atlanta United's 2-0 victory over Toronto FC was a continuation of what we've seen in the Five Stripes in recent weeks: a solid defense continues, along with a more energetic Josef Martinez to give the attack some form and function.
No, Josef did not score. But I did not need to do it to set the tone. His work out of the ball and his linking game have been stellar even when his final touch still eludes him, and the simple fact is that when Josef is moving, the rest of the attack will find places:
He got the badistance here, but look at the hard and simple race he does after releasing the pbad to Julian Gressel. That opened the space that Gressel needed to cut and tear one.
That play also showed some of the problems with Toronto FC playing with a "pulley system" or "double pivot" instead of just a simple No. 6 pure. The idea of the double pivot is for two players (in this case, Michael Bradley and Liam Fraser) to share equally all the things that a defensive midfielder has to do: destroy opposing moves, win 50/50, distribute from deep, move forward with late races and protect the bottom line.
When one player pushes up to attack, the other falls deep and central to orchestrate. When one pushes up to catch the ball, it is badumed that the other must fall to protect the place against the bottom line. It can happen on one side, then it can happen on the other, hence the "pulley" effect.
When executed well, a double pivot theoretically covers more terrain and dictates more play than a single No. 6 can handle, while it is harder to play or simply because 2> 1. When it is not done well, you get to play above
The two players on the pivot, as well as the CB on the strong side, have to work in tandem. If they do not, then the double pivot has the habit of causing the exact problem it is supposed to solve: it opens huge tracts of land in the center of the central field, just in front of the bottom line.
Fraser acknowledged that the problematic defensive form of TFC was quite fast:
Atlanta did a good job of exploiting that bit of dislocation and hesitation in Toronto's defensive rotations. They were not perfect, Josef's runs were a bit earlier three or four times, and Pity Martinez still can not figure out what her role is, but the Five Stripes were mostly in the places where they were supposed to be, doing the things that were I badumed they were doing.
It's more mechanical than it was, but that machine is now in four wins in five games.
The beginning of the nightmare really seems a thing of the past and, for the first time in the whole year, they can sleep the sleepless and relaxed dream of a team that rests on the line of the playoffs.