Inter Miami 2-1 Atlanta United: Barco Has Penalty Nightmare As Morgan Sinks Five Stripes

Inter Miami 2-1 Atlanta United: Barco Has Penalty Nightmare As Morgan Sinks Five Stripes

By Chris Smith.

Atlanta United’s woes continued as they fell to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Inter Miami on Wednesday night. 

Having parted ways with Frank de Boer after their disastrous MLS is Back tournament showing, the Five Stripes sold record signing Pity Martinez to Saudi side Al-Nassr recently for a fee of $18m.

And on Wednesday, they extended their poor run of results since the return of action to five defeats and just one win in eight games as an impressive Lewis Morgan double did the damage either side of Eric Remedi’s equaliser in an action-packed first half. There was even chance for Ezequiel Barco to miss two penalties in the opening 45 minutes, retaking the spot-kick after Cubo Torres’ rebound from the initial miss was ruled out for encroachment into the box.

The Five Stripes were simply unable to muster anywhere near the impetus required to break down what was an organised and hungry Inter Miami side and as a result, now sit way down in eighth in the Eastern Conference.

So, with the dust settling on a dramatic night of MLS action, who were the winners and losers from the match?

Winner: Lewis Morgan

Having gone six games without a goal for his new club ahead of Wednesday’s match, Morgan opened his Inter Miami account in style with not one, but two strikes beyond Brad Guzan.

The first was a low finish swept across Guzan and into his bottom-right corner, finishing off a ruthlessly direct counter-attack led by Rodolfo Pizarro. For the second, Morgan was able to wonderfully set himself up for a left-footed volley just inside the box after receiving the ball from Ben Sweat. Both strikes showed grace, composure and a clinical edge Diego Alonso is going to need if he is to keep the Herons competitive this season.

But it wasn’t just silky finishes which helped Morgan catch the eye on Wednesday. The former Celtic and Sunderland man was a constant thorn in the side of Atlanta United’s defence, completing three dribbles and playing one key pass on the night. Morgan was even able to make five tackles and one interception to help his side fend off some often considerable Atlanta United pressure.

Morgan has been threatening this sort of performance for a while now and with a brace of goals under his belt, the 23-year-old should kick on and be a decisive figure for Inter Miami moving forward.

Loser: Ezequiel Barco

First things first, Barco is absolutely not listed as a loser here on account of a bad performance. The Argentine tyro actually put in a very exciting performance in the No.10 role many Atlanta United fans have been wanting to see him in more consistently.

It was Barco taking the ball on the turn and spearheading the Atlanta United counter-attacks which caused Inter Miami the most problems for large stretches of Wednesday night — at least in the first half, anyway — while he was the one slipping the ball to Damm to enable the Mexico international to deliver the ball for Remedi’s equaliser.

We even witnessed an increase in Barco’s defensive work-rate, often seen racing back to help Atlanta United get numbers behind the ball as quickly as possible — it’s just a shame some of his teammates didn’t follow suit, more on that later.

However, his disastrous penalty debacle shortly before half-time was the stuff of nightmares, missing not once but twice as Luis Robles first saved to his right, then to his left after Barco was ordered to retake the spot-kick due to encroachment from Torres, who had fired home the rebound from the first effort. The fact that Victor Ulloa also entered the box was the only reason Barco had a second chance in the first place.

With Pity Martinez now signed and sealed with Al-Nassr and Josef Martinez injured, Barco is the Five Stripes’ only available Designated Player and as such, has a whole lot of pressure heaped upon his shoulders. Despite a positive overall performance, he wasn’t able to rise to the occasion in this one.

Winner: Jurgen Damm

One of the biggest questions surrounding Damm following his arrival at Atlanta United from Tigres was whether or not the Mexico international had the confidence and composure to deliver in the final third. Nobody questioned his pace or skill, but even the player himself has admitted he struggles to make the decisive pass or clinical finish when required.

However, after his fourth appearance in an Atlanta United shirt, we can safely say the early signs are positive.

The 27-year-old brilliantly found Brooks Lennon in the box to notch his first assist during the Five Stripes’ 3-1 defeat to Orlando City recently — arguably Atlanta’s only high point that night — and on Wednesday, he coolly cut the ball across the Miami box to allow Remedi to find the net to level the scores at 1-1.

Damm was withdrawn in the 63rd minute with two completed dribbles and two key passes under his belt while in just 122 minutes of play in an Atlanta United shirt, he has already notched two assists. Just the kind of final-third output the Five Stripes have been lacking this season.

Loser: Emerson Hyndman

We can’t analyse this game any further without going back and asking just what Emerson Hyndman was doing on Inter Miami’s first goal.

With the Five Stripes set for an attacking corner, Hyndman was the one tasked with sitting on the edge of the box to mop up any clearances and, more importantly, stop the ball getting to Rodolfo Pizarro.

The former Bournemouth midfielder clearly didn’t get the memo, however, as he first allowed Pizarro to beat him to a Leandro Gonzalez Pirez clearance before appearing to simply give up on the chase as the Mexico international raced away toward Guzan’s goal.

Whether Hyndman is carrying a knock, is fatigued or trouble by some other unseen issue is something only he and Stephen Glass will know, but this lack of energy and endeavour epitomised his defensive performance on Wednesday night and resulted in Inter Miami being a menace on the break, able to quickly outnumber the Atlanta defence.

Winner: Rodolfo Pizarro

That brings us nicely on to the man who showed the alertness to beat Hyndman to the ball and race forward to create Inter Miami’s opening goal.

While Alonso’s men have thus far struggled to completely adjust to life in Major League Soccer, Pizarro has taken to the league like a duck to water, scoring twice and grabbing another assist in six outings prior to Wednesday’s visit of Atlanta.

Rodolfo Pizarro Inter Miami first goal

And on the night, the former Monterrey man brought his A-game once again, providing his second assist of the season for the opening goal and causing the Atlanta United defence no end of problems with his dribbling, visionary passing and ability to drop into seemingly non-existent spaces.

Pizarro ended the match with three key passes and two completed dribbles, a fine illustration of the skillset he has at his disposal. The thought of a DP striker being added to get onto the end of his deliveries down the line is simply terrifying.

Winner: Luis Robles

Orlando City might have finally beaten Atlanta United and, thus, become very loud in the south but ask any Atlanta United fan and they’ll tell you they hold a higher disdain of New York Red Bulls.

With that in mind, it will cause the Five Stripes faithful no end of pain to see Robles as the man to twice deny Barco from the spot and, ultimately, seal the points for Inter Miami.

The man himself will be delighted with his efforts on Wednesday night and although Robles would probably tell you playing against Atlanta United had nothing to do with it, you get the feeling he had that extra little motivation required to keep his net safe.