Every road match is its own challenge in MLS, but that’s especially true when teams travel to New England, where the Revolution had won the past six home games – their second-best run in franchise history – including a win over the newly-crowned Supporters' Shield champions Toronto FC in their last outing.
“This is a difficult place to come if you're fresh,” midfielder Jeff Larentowicz said after the game. “They're a very good team in this building. The legs were a bit heavy. I think that they had a point to prove, but at the same time, we held on and had a shutout.”
That fixture congestion, in which Atlanta United have played seven matches in just 20 days, was something head coach Tata Martino acknowledged after the game.
“We didn’t play the way we usually play,” Martino said through a translator, “but we tried to do something different to save our legs a little and bet on a more direct approach. I have the feeling that at the end of the game we were close to losing it, but I also feel that in the first half we were close to winning it. For me, it’s a good point,”
The old saying goes that defense wins championships, so when Atlanta United’s high-flying offense couldn’t quite make it click Saturday night, it was vital to get out with a draw. The red, black and gold are running on four consecutive clean sheets, with more than six and a half hours of competitive play since their last goal conceded.
“When your name and number is called and you step on the field, you have to do your job,” said goalkeeper Brad Guzan, “and the guys, they did it fantastic today in terms of closing it down, sliding all over the place, making blocks, getting fouls, you name it. I think we probably defended for close to 90 minutes in that game, so to come away with a clean sheet is a bonus."
The players acknowledged it wasn’t their most dominant display of the season, but getting hard-fought points when the team isn’t at full strength is often the sign of a contender.
“At this point in the season, every point is vital in terms of where we finish,” Guzan added. “We knew it was going to be a hard game and it was from start to finish. They've got good players and when you come on the road in this league, the games are never easy and to do what we did for as long as we did, we will definitely take the point and we move on to Tuesday”
And while it may not have been the prettiest point of Atlanta United’s season, they all count the same as the team fights for a first-round bye in the MLS Cup playoffs.
"I think every point matters at this stage. We play again on Tuesday. It's another chance to jump. We'll be back at home and hopefully we can get three points there."
ATL UTD have been unstoppable at home so far at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and they will try to continue that unbeaten run on Tuesday with an eye on jumping into second place in the Eastern Conference standings. Tickets are still available as the squad faces fellow expansion side Minnesota United at 7:00 p.m. EST. Make sure you’ve reserved your spot by getting your ticket here.