The high-flying, heart-pounding attacking exploits of the Tata Martino era have evolved into something cannier and more calculated under Frank de Boer, yet the results keep stacking up for Atlanta United.
The Five Stripes won their fifth straight game on Wednesday, and did so via their fifth straight clean sheet, frustrating the Vancouver Whitecaps en route to a 1-0 victory at BC Place via Josef Martinez's first-half penalty kick, his fifth goal of the season and the MLS-leading seventh PK conceded by the 'Caps.
Defending deep, readily conceding possession at times, Atlanta managed the game in catenaccio style, provoking boos from the Vancouver crowd as they made the most of contact and milked the clock whenever possible.
Yet they always looked dangerous in transition and Maxime Crepeau needed to show off stellar form in goal for the 'Caps, most spectacularly on a 59th-minute triple save where he first denied Tito Villalba on a breakaway, then parried Eric Remedi's followup before somehow saving Pity Martinez's diving header on that rebound as well.
- 29' - ATL - Josef Martinez (PK) | WATCH
- THE BIG PICTURE: This crafty, cynical performance suggests that ATLUTD have a better shot at defending their MLS Cup title than the first month or so of their season indicated, though de Boer's approach surely won't win over as many neutrals as Tata's did. For VWFC, wasting chances and gifting PKs remain twin bugaboos.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Lass Bangoura's fleeting moment of poor judgement in his own penalty area, the latest of several such errors for the 'Caps, handed Josef a spot kick that he netted for the win:
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Keeping Fredy Montero in his pocket all night, Florentin Pogba (as you may have heard, he's a brother of Paul) was a quiet rock in the back on his MLS debut.