Yes, this was the very definition of turnabout is fair play. And a nice job of symmetry. For the first time, Atlanta United has completed a season series and the points were evenly divided in a 4-4 aggregate result. This was Rivalry Week in MLS, and although we obviously didn’t have any true rivals when the schedule was set, the foundations had nonetheless been laid for a grudge match. And the Five Stripes rose to the challenge.
I’m going to be unobvious in awarding Man of the Match honors. Two weeks ago, the community chose Julian Gressel and I chose Miguel Almiron. I’m going to flip that this week and give Gressel the nod. Deets below.
So, directly from the Fount of All Wisdom, this week’s Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
GK: Alec Kann - 8. A not overly busy day for Kann, but he stepped up. Did Guzan’s presence in Marietta this week give him extra motivation? He made three saves on the day, and it’s an outrage that the diving save he made to deny David Villa’s blast to the lower 90 was not selected as a Save of the Week candidate.
RB: Tyrone Mears - 6. A mostly acceptable performance, but he made two mistakes on the play that allowed Harrison’s goal to ruin the clean sheet. His pass off the poorly executed short corner was easily intercepted, and he failed to divert the cross that Harrison volleyed into the net. Despite getting forward, he’s not providing the crosses he did earlier in the season either (only 1 for the game). Is it time for Bloom to take over?
CB: Michael Parkhurst - 7. Still doing a sterling job as captain. Parkhurst only had 33 passes this weekend, but made 5 clearances in what was clearly a defensively oriented game for the center back pairing. He also picked up a yellow card, but I did not ding him for it; I thought it was a really soft call.
CB: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez - 8. A very nervy start to the game, but LGP made at least one crucial stop to prevent a goal. His touches and passes were almost the mirror image of Parkhurst’s. This tandem were very much in sync on Sunday. LGP gets a better rating by adding 5 interceptions and 3 tackles to the 4 clearances they both had.
LB: Greg Garza - 7. Much more active this week than last, Garza was all over the left third of the field, with 63 touches and 50 passes. I was tempted to knock off half a point for what looked suspiciously like a target tattooed on his right arm. Wrong club’s sponsor, bro.
CM: Jeff Larentowicz – 8. Larry is making himself indispensable. I noted to the staff during the game that Larry was having a quiet but solid performance. He also morphed seamlessly into a true third center back during the last thirty minutes or so, making the defense even more impenetrable than it had already been.
CM: Carlos Carmona – 7.5. Carmona (he really needs a nickname; suggestions anyone?) was literally everywhere on the field this weekend, amassing 60 touches, 50 passes, 6 tackles (tied for team high with Garza) and a shot (slightly off-target and blocked). Loses a half point for the yellow card for retaliation.
CAM: Miguel Almiron - 9. I’m running out of superlatives for Miggy’s play. This week he fell one goal short of becoming only the third player in MLS history to post back-to-back hat tricks (Diego Serna in 200 and Eddie Johnson in 2007). Probably just as well, as Bobby Dodd would not have withstood the crazed celebration if he had.
LW: Yamil Asad - 7. Asad has matured a lot over the past few games. Or at least calmed down. Or maybe duck-taped his elbows down. Whichever, he had 59 touches and 35 passes, both of which were about two-thirds in the attacking half. Loses a point for the ill-advised pass to Mears that led to Harrison’s goal.
RW: Julian Gressel - 9. Forget Gresselmania; Julian is now the Wingman. Rumor has it he has filed a patent on crosses from the goal line. He didn’t score this week (he took one long-range shot that was blocked), but assisted on two of Atlanta’s goals, and in the process made Alexander Callens look like a complete idiot. When Martinez returns, Gressel will have created a rich man’s problem for Martino – how to set the attacking midfield when he has four players who all deserve to play? Will we maybe see a 3-5-2? Time will tell.
FWD: Tito Villalba - 8. A worthy candidate for Goal of the Week, Tito’s golazo was the cherry on top of a great outing. Way better than Harrison’s, which is also on the ballot. He did look gassed when he came off in the 85th minute though.
SUB: Kevin Kratz - 7. Came on for Gressel in the 81st minute, about a minute later than last week. Despite the late entry, he put together 7 passes.
SUB: Kenwyne Jones - 7. As with Kratz, Jones made the same substitution (for Villalba in the 85th minute) that he did against Houston. Normally, for such a late sub, I would not give a rating, but KJ made a total nuisance of himself in the 9 minutes he played and was key to killing off the game.
SUB: Chris McCann – not rated. McCann was the only tactical difference this week as compared with Houston; all other lineup decisions were the same. Should have dyed his hair orange.
COACH: Tata Martino - 8. Great game plan and Tata has obviously mastered telepathy to control the game silently from the suites.
ESPN - -infinity. College softball? Really? And Tennessee to boot? Watching it live I also didn’t hear the ever-so-subtle 2-second warning from Adrian Healy that they were switching from ESPNews to ESPN and got an eyeful of - get this - dolphins for a few seconds before I grabbed the remote. Grief.
The possession stat – 10. For being so brilliantly deceiving. Atlanta had a 13% possession deficit for the game. But as I watched the game a second time last night, it really didn’t feel like we didn’t have the ball. The Five Stripes were in control for virtually the entire game, minus the first ten minutes or so.
The bus driver – 10. Nice parking, man.