Behind The Numbers: Atlanta United's league-leading offense eyeing improvement on set pieces
ATLANTA — Sixteen weeks into the season and Atlanta United claims the league's leading offense, sitting atop of the MLS leaderboard with 28 goals. The oddest part of this high-scoring attack: the Five Stripes have taken the second-fewest shots in the league.
The Colorado Rapids have taken the fewest shots in the league (85) but have only tallied a total of 12 goals. In the grand scheme of things, Atlanta United looks more impressive considering the fact that it has reached 28 with 106 shots.
To put this into further perspective, the Houston Dynamo are currently right behind United with 27 goals, but have taken 142 shots followed by Toronto FC with 26 goals and 143 shots.
“We are trying to be dominant up front, but we also have games like against Vancouver where we only score one goal,” emerging midfielder Julian Gressel said. “We score maybe two goals and go up two-nil, maybe we win the game instead of lose it. It’s obviously a mix of putting away chances and creating chances and getting a lot more numbers in the box and trying to be dangerous in those kinds of areas. Not just three or four times a game, but five, six, or seven times a game.”
Now take a step back and really dissect what Atlanta United has done offensively, considering the team has taken 52 corners, not one of the 28 goals has resulted from a corner kick. Why? Short corners.
“That’s how the coaching staff wants us to play,” forward Yamil Asad said. “The fact that we play short corners is because we aren’t expecting to score a lot off short corners but the idea is that we get a lot of players in the box and that we finish the play on the opposite side of the field where it started.”
To Atlanta United’s credit, the team doesn’t necessarily have the tallest of players attacking the box. But the overarching aim for short corners, particularly in United’s case, is to have more players attack the box while luring defenders out.
It clearly hasn’t come off the way it’s intended to for the squad; however, short corners attempt to put defenders off balance and that’s the main point of emphasis for Atlanta United. And fortunate enough for someone like goalkeeper Alec Kann, he recognizes the amount of firepower the team has playing in front of him.
“Those guys are clinical,” Kann said. “I mean if you give them an inch they’re going to punish you for it. They’re clinical around the box and they're opportunistic.”
Better yet, the lads have only garnered one penalty kick goal in accordance to receiving just a single attempt. It is rather unique that Atlanta United has found various ways to find the back of the net that don’t stem set pieces. What remains to be seen is how long the Five Stripes can last on this track.
Almirón & Co. have some work to do if they have any desire to remain on top of the MLS in goals scored throughout the campaign. More importantly, they will have to change it up and spark different and better chances to score more consistently so that their offense can remain a danger for the rest of the league to come.
“It seems like we’ve done well to get goals in other ways,” midfielder Jeff Larentowicz said. “Set pieces isn’t really a place where we found goals. You can’t go a whole year like that, but I think our set pieces are a work in progress.”