By my count, Atlanta United has played four games in the northeast (that’s if you consider DC to be the northeast and not the deepest darkest corner of hell) and have played on precisely one actual soccer field. RFK Stadium we all know to be a raccoon-infested cesspool long ago abandoned by the Redskins, Yankee Stadium was a laughable postage stamp, Talen Energy Stadium was, amazingly, an honest-to-goodness soccer stadium, and then a visit to Gillette Stadium and a worn-out carpet in a color that no one has out in their family room since the 70s. Worse, it was marked up to remind us of a certain football team that shall not be named (disclaimer: I once lived about 35 miles from Foxboro. I still hate that damned team).
The quality of play about mirrored the quality of the playing surface. Frankly, it’s a wonder the entire Revolution team hasn’t gone down with ACL or hamstring injuries playing 17 games a year on that joke of a field. That combined with the obviously tired legs of the Five Stripes made for a pretty pitiful showing Saturday evening. It didn’t help that the football lines are a huge distraction, taking United out of its standard wide play with an evil psychological trick. You might say they deflated the soccer field.
The heatmap for this game reflects that:
For once, Atlanta was on the defensive in this contest (just under 40% possession, which I think is the lowest all year). New England was able to exploit the wings far better, presumably being used to the football lines. Also, for United there is a gaping hole in the midfield that is due either to the absence of Miguel Almiron or an attempt to avoid that hideous grinning minuteman in the center circle.
The game was also unbearably dull. So bad was it that even the cameras gave up. I counted three interruptions for “technical difficulties” in the second half, and, frankly, the monochrome splash screen they put up was more interesting than the actual play.
One more game left up north; fortunately on a real soccer field. Anyway, here are the Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
That bright red spot on the heatmap is a good indicator of who gets Man of the Match honors. Brad Guzan had an excellent game, preserving the draw, making 5 saves in the process, including an epic fingertip touch to the crossbar to correct his positional error on a free kick. Special Mention goes to Michael Parkhurst, who earned himself a spot on the MLS Team of the Week as well as this little shout-out from Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle:
Armchair Analyst: Atlanta have pitched shutouts in six of their last seven. Michael Parkhurst has been *really* good pic.twitter.com/ntqPvwYH19— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) October 1, 2017
GK: Brad Guzan – 8. For once, Guzan was not able to set up a deck chair and sip sweet tea. It’s also rare in an MLS game that a goalkeeper tops the Audi Index rankings. But he did, with a score of 892. Moreover, Brad had 59 touches on the ball. Only Julian Gressel had more, with 61. Has he done enough to start both games for the Nats this week? We shall see.
RB: Anton Walkes – 6. Anton’s highlight was his excellent cross in to Tito Villalba that ended up just wide. He also had a shot blocked. Other than that, most of his touches were in the defending half.
CB: Michael Parkhurst – 7. As noted above, a solid outing from Parky. 2 tackles, 2 interceptions and a clearance. More influential than we are used to seeing him.
CB: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez – 6.5. LGP had 3 interceptions and 5 clearances. A typically dependable performance, marred by a yellow card that puts him at risk of a suspension.
LB: Greg Garza – 5. Garza has become an injury magnet. He lasted just 27 minutes in this game, and probably should have come out earlier. Did not really produce much while on the field.
CM: Jeff Larentowicz – 6. Jeff was as dependable as ever. 4 interceptions and 3 winning tackles. He took two impossibly long-range shots, though, which were both blocked.
CM: Carlos Carmona – 7. C-Squared was all over the place Saturday night, clearly trying to generate some offense. Still, he never got into the attacking third and any attempts to produce ultimately fizzled out.
CAM: Tito Villalba– 5. Tito was pretty much taken out of this game. He had only 26 touches all game. Even so, he probably had the best opportunity to score, putting a headed ball just wide. He was wide open on the play, and could have taken more time on it. Came out with 11 minutes left.
LW/LB: Chris McCann – 6. This game was the mirror-image of the previous one for McCann this time. Starting at left wing, he was forced to shift to the left back position after Garza’s injury. Didn’t get forward much and produced only one cross all game.
RW: Julian Gressel – 6. Probably the most active of the attacking players on the evening. He led the team in touches (61) and passes (47) and managed to find some space deep.
FWD: Josef Martinez – 6. A very un-Josef game. In 79 minutes he had several chances on goal, including 3 shots, all of which were poorly off-target. However, you can’t rely on one guy to step up every single game. He heads south for international duty and the Five Stripes offense will have to create without him tonight.
SUB: Yamil Asad – 5. What was supposed to be a rest turned into nearly a full game. Not that you could tell; Asad did very little all night with only 38 touches and one long-distance shot.
SUB: Kenwyne Jones – 6. Came on in a double-switch with Jacob Peterson for 11 official minutes. By then the game had completely disintegrated and any hopes of generating a score were long gone. He had one shot, which actually ended up wide of the penalty area.
SUB: Jacob Peterson – 6. Like Jones, he was unable to provide a game-changing play, and there probably wasn’t one to be had anyway.
COACH: Tata Martino – 6. How much fault should Tata bear for this one? Difficult to say. Clearly the team was not prepared for the unusual conditions, but he was also taken out of his game plan early as a result of injury.
And lastly, there is still time to donate to The Fugees.