MLS 2019: Atlanta United FC vs Montreal Impact - tactical analysis tactics
Artwork by @Chapulana

Atlanta United and Montreal Impact played against each other over the weekend in what was an exciting fixture in the MLS. Montreal Impact had the biggest chances but it was the home side that came out victorious, as this tactical analysis will show.

In this tactical analysis supported by statistics, we will have a look at three tactical trends during this MLS game. We will look at the attacking style of play of Atlanta, how Montreal pressed with their 5-4-1 and, finally, how United secured the win in the last ten minutes of the game.

Lineups

MLS 2019: Atlanta United FC  vs Montreal Impact - tactical analysis tacticsAtlanta coach Frank de Boer employed a 4-3-3 formation during this MLS game. The coach sought to find a balance between attacking-minded players and defensive-minded players, with a vital role for Darlington Nagbe. The midfielder was instrumental in both defending and attacking style of play.

Montreal Impact coach Rémi Garde had a slightly more conservative approach to the game against Atlanta United. He fielded a 5-4-1 formation with Harry Novillo as the sole striker in this MLS game. This formation was chosen to defend.

Atlanta United’s attacking style of play

Atlanta United were the home side in this game, and they wanedt to play an attacking style of football. Although they did not dominate with their ball possession, they were present with their attacks. According to statistics provided by Wyscout, Atlanta United had 31 positional attacks.

MLS 2019: Atlanta United FC  vs Montreal Impact - tactical analysis tactics
Atlanta United positional attacks. The attacks with the highest expected goals, were constructed over left flank and the middle.

As you can see in the image above, Atlanta United’s attacks were equally divided. But the positional attacks with the most threat were constructed through the middle and over the left flank. We will now look into the way these successful attacks were constructed.

MLS 2019: Atlanta United FC  vs Montreal Impact - tactical analysis tactics
Atlanta United’s set up when building up: The central defenders on the halfway line and the full backs playing high on the opponent’s halve.

In possession of the ball and when building up, Atlanta United would play high up the pitch. The central defending duo would play on the halfway line, while the full backs would make runs down the line when they received the ball. Nagbe dropped down to join the defence, in order to build a well-organised attack. This led to an attacking plan with many attacking players, as can be seen in the image below.

MLS 2019: Atlanta United FC  vs Montreal Impact - tactical analysis tactics
The front three is supported by a four-man midfield with left full back Pogba making a run down the line.

In attacking mode, Atlanta United had a front three with a four-man midfield. This can be seen in the image above, which explains the attack that leads to the 1-0. Full back Pogba makes a run down the line and anticipates a pass from the midfield.

MLS 2019: Atlanta United FC  vs Montreal Impact - tactical analysis tactics
Justin Meram has two passing options going forward: passing it to Pogba or passing it to Eric Remedi.

The left flank was were Atlanta United constructed danger, as can be seen on the image above. It seems that Meram had two options going forward: passing it to Pogba or passing it Remedi. The home team favoured playing it over the left flank, as the full back, Pogba made his way into the final third after making a run down the line.

MLS 2019: Atlanta United FC  vs Montreal Impact - tactical analysis tactics
Meram chooses a third option: shooting himself and he is successful: 1-0 for Atlanta United.

Meram chooses to go for individual glory and can do so because the other Atlanta United players make room for him. While Vasquez in the middle runs to the goal, anticipating a through ball, Meram shoots and his attempt is successful: 1-0 to Atlanta United.

Atlanta United often constructed attacks on the left-hand side – as was the attack that led to their goal – but they were not always successful. It took until the 80th minute for the home side to take advantage of their attacking style of play, and win the game.

Montreal Impact pressing with their 5-4-1

Montreal were a worthy opponent. They had defensive intentions and their active way of pressing was what was key to it. Montreal started pressing from the moment that United was trying to get into Impact’s half.

MLS 2019: Atlanta United FC  vs Montreal Impact - tactical analysis tactics
Montreal Impact only start to press when Atlanta United threatens to cross to their halve.

When Atlanta United did move into the box as seen in the image above, Montreal started to press them. In the first stage, this is only done by the striker Novillo. He would press the central defender who had the ball at that moment.

MLS 2019: Atlanta United FC  vs Montreal Impact - tactical analysis tactics
Novillo presses the central defenders

At this moment the four-man midfield did not press. They only let Novillo press the central defenders. This changed the moment that Atlanta United moved up.

tactical-analysis-MLS-2019-atlanta-united-vs-montreal-impact-statistics
A moment later three of the four midfielders press the Atlanta United defence.

As soon as one of the central defenders makes a decision to pass the ball, three of the four Montreal Impact midfielders press the Atlanta United defence. This ensured that the long ball had to be played by the home side.

MLS 2019: Atlanta United FC  vs Montreal Impact - tactical analysis tactics
The long ball is played and the Montreal Impact defence can regain control of the ball

The way Montreal Impact pressed proved to be quite effective, as Atlanta United struggled to deal with it during this MLS game, as this tactical analysis shows.

Conclusion

Atlanta United and Montreal Impact were teams that tested each other well. Montreal Impact made the most of their chances and pressed well with their 5-4-1 formation. But in the end, it was the attacking style of play of Atlanta United that saw them claim the three points through a brace by Meram.

Marc Lamberts

My name is Marc Lamberts. Freelance journalist and Arts & Culture student. Football fanatic. Love 3-5-2. UEFA C. 27. Dutch.
Marc Lamberts