By now, most of us have reconciled to the fact that the Five Stripes lost a close game playing down a man. Not me. Because I question that math. They were down 6 men by my calculations.
As most of you know, I am a referee, and the Code of Conduct means I am not supposed to criticize other referees, but in this case it’s hard to stay mum. Instead, I can point to decisions I think were wrongly executed. To start, though, the red card on Kyle Reynish was absolutely correct. However, in my opinion, MInnesota United’s Francisco Calvo, Collin Martin and Brent Kallman all should have received red cards in the first half. The yellow card shown to Tyrone Mears was for a phantom foul. Those are the big errors; there were others.
That aside, a makeshift 10-man Atlanta United side (with only 5 regular starters) was leading after 89 minutes, only to collapse in added time. Atlanta dominated play in the first half, thwarted only by yet another impressive display by an opposing goalkeeper (which has been a running theme this season), in this case Bobby Shuttleworth. It is also worth mentioning that this was not the same Minnesota team we faced back in March, not by a long shot. Only 5 of the players who started that game started this one. Of the 18 players on that early squad, only 11 were in the lineup yesterday (note that Minnesota only listed 17 players for last night’s game). They are a much improved team overall, and may have had a better shot at the playoffs if they had had this lineup all season. I am pretty confident, though, that a full-strength Atlanta wins this game fairly handily.
The heatmap gives an indication of how much Atlanta controlled the game and maintained its press despite the disadvantages:
Overall, under the circumstances, this was a pretty good showing from the good guys. Yes, the loss hurts, but Atlanta still largely controls its own destiny. Wins in the two remaining games guarantees 3rd place, and if New York City FC lose one of their last two games, United take 2nd place. The world is not ending, folks.
So, here are the Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
Tito Villalba takes Man of the Match honors. He pretty much carried the team on his back last night and did everything in his power to get a result. Special Mentions go to Julian Gressel, who scored a beautiful goal (and under MLS rules should have been credited with a secondary assist on it) and also to Yamil Asad, in part for his brilliant assist on that goal.
Note that these ratings are going to be less technical in nature than usual. That’s because last night grit and resilience were much more important. Yeah, I know I’m going all Pablo Mastroeni on you, but that’s how they deserve to be rated.
GK: Kyle Reynish – 5. Until his ejection in the 60th minute, Reynish did OK. There was little he could do to stop Abu Danladi’s shot for the first goal. However, his DOGSO foul was foolish and probably unnecessary. Note also that in his 12-year career Reynish has a grand total of 42 appearances, of which only 10 have been in MLS.
RB: Tyrone Mears – 6. A surprise start in place of Anton Walkes, and was not much changed from what we saw from him in the early part of the season. Good in attack, not so much in defense.
CB: Michael Parkhurst – 7. Even Parky pushed forward in this game. Of his 69 successful passes, 31 were in the attacking half (although none were in the attacking third).
CB: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez – 8. LGP did an Asad impression on Tuesday, becoming the designated hittee. The elbow swipe by Kallman was egregious, and the forearm smash from Calvo even worse. Still, it did not stop him from putting up his usual stellar defensive performance.
LB: Chris McCann – 7. The latest victim of the hamstring bug, although I originally thought his injury was the result of a slightly dirty tackle to his foot. Was forced out in the 44th minute, but had done well up to that point, and has been at worst a serviceable replacement for Garza.
CM: Kevin Kratz – 7. Giving Jeff Larentowicz a well-earned rest, Kratz played a rather more attacking game than Jeff typically does, and did well at it. He had two good shots, one of which was blocked, the other on target.
CM: Carlos Carmona – 7. C-Squared was the midfield anchor on Tuesday, and was a commanding presence on that role. Solid as ever.
CAM: Julian Gressel – 8. That uncredited assist would have tied him for most assists by a rookie. A great game overall, and gets extra points for the FIFA-imitating bird celebration, which was perfect against the Loons. Came out after 84 minutes in the only tactical substitution of the night.
RW: Tito Villalba – 9. Tito was, simply put, the man. By now he should have silenced all his doubters.
LW: Yamil Asad – 8. Coming off his abbreviated rest on Saturday, Asad was his typical self. How he spotted Gressel for the goal I have no idea, especially given that Julian started the play about 30 yards behind him.
FWD: Kenwyne Jones – 5. Kenwyne was coming off a couple of decent games off the bench, but clearly is not the starter at forward on this team. He produced very little and was not anywhere near as mobile as the system requires. Came off after 62 minutes as the sacrifice field player on Reynish’s red card.
SUB: Mikey Ambrose – 7. Came on for Chris McCann after 44 minutes. Mikey is small, but fairly fast, but does really fill the role Tata expects out of a fullback. Still, he put in a good stint.
SUB: Alex Tambakis – 5. Had to play even though he was probably expecting a relaxing evening on the sidelines. I think it’s safe to say he wasn’t ready. Despite one good save, he looked out of his depth and was clearly crushed at the final result.
SUB: Jeff Larentowicz – 6. Came on after 84 minutes, and then disaster struck. Was it Jeff’s fault? Of course not. He’s Jeff, and therefore inerrant.
COACH: Tata Martino – 6. This lineup was a bit of a head-scratcher even though options had suddenly become very limited. Jones up top was the particular oddity. I’d have played Tito at striker, put Kratz in the middle and told Jeff he wasn’t getting a break.
FANS: 8. Most of you were great, getting behind the team in a really tough situation. However, the stupid minority put us all to shame. And do we really need the “F**k you, Orlando” chant at every game?
(Finally, if you’re wondering about the sub-title, it’s a line from Genesis’ Match of the Day, whose fade-out happens to include the line “look out, here comes a bottle…”)