OK, I admit it, this was on me. I found myself Wednesday evening in the troublesome position of needing to drive my youngest son around but having no readily available means by which to record the Atlanta United game. There was therefore no alternative; I made the appropriate offerings to the soccer gods*, who obliged and delayed the game until precisely three minutes after we arrived back home. Disaster averted, and you all got wet and angry in a very good cause. For what it’s worth, the aforementioned son is capable of doing Five Stripey things like this:
To remind @ATLUTD fans of better days, here's my son Daniel doing a near-perfect Josef Martinez impression. pic.twitter.com/V2oOv0gpbp— John Fuller (@JohnKFuller) May 8, 2017
(Side note to Daniel: OK, I bragged on you; I now expect cool stuff for Fathers’ Day)
Jimmy Greaves’ observation that it’s a game of two halves certainly applied in this one. In fact, given the score after three minutes, thinking that Atlanta had added a yellow and black kit would have been totally reasonable. Stranger things have happened, after all (some of them last night, in fact. The Open Cup is made for that). However, an unexpected 2-1 half-time deficit ended up a 3-2 victory after some interesting changes for the second half.
With that in mind, here are this (mid)week’s Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
Man of the Match honors are a tough one for this game. The obvious choice is Josef Martinez, and I’m going to go with that. Special mention goes to Mark Bloom, who had to deal with shifting responsibilities and did a pretty good job of it.
GK: Alec Kann – 6. Probably could have done better on the first goal, but was blameless on the second, and fortunately didn’t have to do anything at all on the penalty kick. Was much quicker getting the ball off his feet and got the ball moving upfield much faster than usual.
RB: Zach Loyd - 5. Who? Yes, he really does exist. As far as I can tell, this was his first official game since June 16, 2016, 2 days shy of a year. That last game was also in the USOC, in which he incurred a concussion while playing for FC Dallas. He was pulled at half time after not really doing very much, but 363 days is a lot of rust to shake off.
CB: Miles Robinson - 4. A nightmare outing for Robinson in his top level professional start. Also pulled at half time in an obvious attacking shift.
CB: Anton Walkes - 6. On the second goal (which apparently has been officially credited to Dante Marini, not to Robinson as an own goal) he was probably thinking “Thank God that wasn’t me. Again.” Overall, had a good defensive outing, but was subbed out in the 60th minute after taking one knock too many.
LB: Mark Bloom - 8. Starting officially at left back, he was tasked to migrate to more of a center back role at half time and handled the adjustment well, especially given that the changed lineup looked a lot like a 3-5-2 (although it was probably more of a 4-4-2 most of the time).
CM: Jeff Larentowicz – 7. Wore the captain’s armband for this one in Parkhurst’s absence. His defensive duties are becoming more and more apparent as the season progresses, and he dropped into an extra center back position frequently during the second half. Was solid throughout the game.
CM: Chris McCann – 6. Filling in for Carlos Carmona, McCann is a rather different kind of player, and spent most of the game clogging up the midfield to snuff out Battery attacks. Did the job like the journeyman he is.
CAM: Kevin Kratz- 7. A goal, and more long corners. He goes on like this, Kevin is going to change United’s tactics for good.
LW: Miguel Almiron - 7. Most of us probably expected Miggy not to play this game, and especially not to go the full 90. He was not overly effective in the first half, but came to life in the second, and looked to be having fun on the left wing (which he has a tendency to favor anyway).
RW: Brandon Vazquez - 7. Played more of a second striker position in the second half, and chalked up the winning goal as a result. Brandon may well develop into the big man up front that Kenwyne Jones has had trouble being.
FWD: Josef Martinez - 7. Also a surprise 90 minute player, and looked good for most of it. Worried us all when he appeared injured late in the game. Moved all over the field like he was never away, scored his first headed goal for the Five Stripes, and had chances for at least one, possibly two more. Rumors that the game ball has a strange blue stain on it have not been confirmed.
SUB: Mikey Ambrose - 6. When Ambrose came on, the game immediately mutated into an all-out Atlanta attack, and Mikey had little to do at the back. Is probably not quite ready to be the wingback type of full back that Tata prefers.
SUB: Julian Gressel – 7. Came on at the half replacing Robinson and helped to change the course of the game dramatically. Was very much his usual aggressive all-out self.
SUB: Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu – 6. On the field for 30 official minutes, during which he-according to Jason Longshore-made the team a little brighter (he’s a Harvard alum). Didn’t really have much to do, though.
COACH: Tata Martino - 7. Some interesting tactical decisions in this one, that ultimately proved successful.
FANS WHO LEFT - -10. May the soccer gods curse you forever.
FANS WHO STAYED - 10. The blessings of the soccer gods be upon you all.
* No, I’m not telling you what those offerings were. It is forbidden to reveal such secrets to uninitiated heathens.