An Embarrassment for Atletico Madrid
I am a casual American Soccer Fan. If you asked me who my favorite Spanish team was, I'd probably say Atletico Madrid.
Barcelona and Real Madrid are the two big spenders in Spain, but to me Atletico Madrid's style of play is tenacious and scrappy. I liked the fiery way in which coach Diego Simeone led his men.
Liked, as in past tense.
So in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, Atletico found itself matched up against English powerhouse Manchester City. Now don't get me wrong, Manchester City was the betting favorite, but you could argue BOTH teams deserved to be considered in the Top 10 in Europe before the match...
Let me interrupt my own article. Even though the MLS's Columbus Crew is a North American team, let's pretend, for the sake of argument, that they could qualify for the Champions League.
If you said, "hey Fred Hunt, in a 2-legged playoffs, if you can lead the Crew to victory over Manchester City, we'll give you 10 BILLION DOLLARS!"
I would say "you've got to be kidding. The Crew are the #207th rated team in the world, that would be impossible" If you reiterated 10 BILLION DOLLARS, this is what I'd do. I wouldn't even try to win the first game at Manchester City. I would grind that game to a halt and play for a 0-0 tie. I might not even try to take a shot on goal, I'd play 11 men in behind the City Attack the whole game.
Then, for the second game, I would slog that game into an unwatchable mess also, but at home I would focus all of my opportunities on the counter attack. I would play for penalty kicks, because in that scenario, my team would have a 50/50 chance of winning instead of the zero percent chance of winning that I would have if I had my team play City straight up.
I would have my team antagonize City so bad that they'd be ready to fight in the tunnel after playing the Crew. In soccer, if you have the prohibitively WORSE team, the best way to frustrate your opposition is to play stifling defense with numbers and play hard to (through) the whistle.
Atletico v Man City - Game 1
Atletico played in a 5-5-0 formation, which is almost unheard of in top level soccer. Atletico had ZERO shots on goal and ZERO shots total.They also led the stat sheet in Fouls and Yellow Cards.
Man City won 1-0
Athetico v Man City - Game 2
Atletico altered their formation to a more normal (yet still conservative) 5-4-1 formation. Atletico had but ONE shot on goal, even though they at least made a few shots TOWARD the goal.
In a game they had to win 1-0 to force extra time and possibly penalty kicks, they finished in a 0-0 tie. When Atletico was making their final push, they were red-carded and forced to play shorthanded.
I couldn't believe how Athletico was eliminated from the Champions League. It was like they wanted to fight their way into the semi-finals, instead of playing their way in.
Now you could say that I suck in my analysis and I'll listen to that argument, but-
Todo Vale en la Guerra y en el Futbol - John Carlin
Carlin compares Atletico's tactics to the Sinaloa Cartel
I Watch Atletico for the Bench Clearing Brawls and the 90th Minute Red Cards - Connor Flemming
(Atletico's) games "almost always end in bench clearing brawls and red cards."
"City's players were wound up by Atletico's antics" The Daily Mail
And, sure enough, the game ended with a fight in the tunnel.
Simeone's coaching would have been genius, if he was coaching the 207th best club in the world. Employing that strategy, when you should have played City toe-to-toe, was insanity. I am going to underline this for emphasis: Atletico Madrid had one shot on goal, across two games, IN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE.
When is the last time a top level team won crap while not taking a shot on goal? Actually, in 2016, the Seattle Sounders won the MLS Cup on penalty kicks without taking a shot on goal. Seattle's Coach in 2016? Brian Schmetzer.
Brian Schmetzer's game plan was for the Sounders to take shots on goal in 2016, it just didn't happen. And I know that Diego Simeone is not taking pointers from MISL Alumni, the MISL's philosophy was to shoot, shoot, shoot, and then shoot some more.