Scott Caldwell -- Yelling -- Atlanta United

After Atlanta United put seven goals past the nine-man New England Revolution on Wednesday night, a debate erupted on social media after ESPNFC analyst Gabriele Marcotti argued that Atlanta ran up the score.

It was pointed out that Columbus Crew SC only hosted MLS Cup 2015 against the Portland Timbers because of an extra three goals scored / conceded. Both had the same number of points (53) and wins (15), but Crew SC had a slightly better goal differential (+5 vs. Portland’s +2).

What do you think? Were Atlanta United FC right to keep scoring goals after New England went down to nine men in the 38th minute?


We asked Editor-in-Chief Simon Borg, Armchair Analyst Matthew Doyle, ExtraTime Radio host David Gass, Senior Editor Ben Couch, New Media Editor Ben Baer and Contributor Ian Quillen.


Borg: They had no choice


I agree with Marcotti in that it wasn’t enjoyable if you were a neutral. You couldn’t help but feel sorry for New England. But Atlanta had no choice but to keep scoring on the Revs with goal differential and goals being the second and third standings tiebreakers that could determine playoff seeding and MLS Cup host. If you’re looking for a team running up the score in MLS, look back at the second leg of the 2016 Eastern Conference Semifinals between NYCFC and Toronto FC (5-0 TFC win). The extra goals were not necessary with the series in the bag after Toronto’s 2-0 first leg win.


Doyle: No lead is safe


Did we learn nothing from the Mountain and the Viper? 1) Never stop and taunt! 2) No lead is safe! Get. Goals.


Gass: I would've subbed


Atlanta were in their right to continue playing hard in a game especially at home in front of their fans. But I would not have played my stars for 90 minutes. I would have even been OK protecting more than just three players and taking 4-5 off once up 5-0 to see out the game. There would be no chance of losing at that point the added goal or two won't make a difference in the eventual league standings, and you protect oft-injured Josef Martinez, playmaker Miguel Almiron and the head bandaged Greg Garza, not to mention Jeff Larentowicz, who is in peril of suspension through yellow card accumulation. All of this to save your most important pieces for a historic home game on Saturday against a rival.


Baer: Goal difference matters


They were completely in their right to “run up the score” given that they are fighting for playoff positioning and goal differential matters. Although personally, I would have taken Almiron and Martinez off at halftime to give them some rest ahead of the stretch run.


Couch: Scoring > showboating


Were Atlanta out there messing around, trying sombreros and stepovers and then walking it back after the turnover while the Revs raced upfield? Nope. Even when Carolina basketball shifts to four corners, they’ll take the attack if they get an open lane – two points is better than time off the clock. As for sitting the stars, with a two-man advantage, the amount of effort to maintain a lopsided score should be ramped down enough that the risk is low. With only three subs, there’s no decision that would feel like “enough” in that direction.


Quillen: We're talking about this?


I thought the very idea that goal differential and goals scored matter in the standings was supposed to spare us the tiresome arguments that surround every Bill Belichick blowout win in the other kind of football. And if it's a flaw in the system as Marcotti suggests, that means every league in the world needs to change. It's an unfortunate situation, and maybe Tata could've rested different guys. But I think even I could survive 90 minutes if my team was playing 11 against 9. So I'm guessing his players will be OK.