Atlanta boss Frank de Boer on Pity Martinez sub: He wasn't winning duels

Suddenly down 2-1 in the second half against the New York Red Bulls, Atlanta United head coach Frank de Boer needed to up the attacking ante.

So he subbed out Argentine attacking midfielder Pity Martinez for striker Brandon Vazquez. The league's most expensive transfer in history has played a full 90 minutes just once in his last six games. Before long, Atlanta had scored twice and were in position to grab all three points, though the Red Bulls equalized in stoppage time to end a riveting 3-3 draw.

De Boer wasn't shy in explaining why he decided to remove Martinez.

“We have to win duels, and in my point of view, he did not do enough to avoid giving someone an easy long ball," de Boer told reporters after the game. "You saw, Brandon (Vazquez) came in and it was a different story. I want not 10, or nine, or eight men who work very hard, everybody has to work hard, especially in these kinds of games. These are very difficult games." 

The Red Bulls high pressed Atlanta as de Boer would have expected. As such, the plan was for Martinez to pull the strings in central midfield with more space. 

“You saw these kind of games, with the Red Bulls, they are putting a lot of pressure on us with long balls and long balls, and winning duels, so if you can win those balls, you have to have runners, and Pity is the guy who has to deliver those balls to Julian (Gressel), Josef (Martinez), or Justin (Meram), so that was the idea behind it," de Boer explained. "If you remember the first game there in New York, in the beginning we had a lot of times that (Pity Martinez) was free, and maybe he did not make the best choices, but that is the player that you want to have on the ball in that area.”

Atlanta United failed to capitalize on a weekend that saw the Philadelphia Union, D.C. United, Montreal Impact and NYCFC all drop points at the top of the Eastern Conference. They now sit in third place, six points behind conference-leading Union, though have two games in hand.