Yes, we have a 100% record in the Atlanta United-Orlando City rivalry; we’ll see how that holds up next week, of course. Alternatively, following Tata’s standards, we have 49.5 years to wait until it’s a rivalry.
By the way, it’s great to be back. It seems like forever since I last posted these ratings. I took an extended vacation in late June and then we went into the Gold Cup break. I missed four games while I was out; the Five Stripes went 3-0 in league play but lost in the Open Cup. Not bad at all, and I seriously considered asking Arthur Blank to fund me a permanent vacation to keep the streak going.
The vacation was an Atlanta United-style road trip of epic proportions. Heading west out of Birmingham, we went first to Oklahoma City, admiring its clean and pretty streets, ran through Amarillo on a Sunday morning, then through Tucumcari (but not Tucson) to Albuquerque, then via Winslow, AZ, where I looked hard to see some girls in flat-bed Fords (no luck), to Meteor Crater (where the moon landings really happened) and then the Grand Canyon. From there we made our way through the Rocky Mountains, where the sunsets really do look like fire in the sky, to Denver to have a drink or two at the Rattlesnake Café. Left some footprints in the sand in Cheyenne before going to Omaha and then the long highway east to Chicago, the same old place I first lived here in the US. Have to admit I slipped on some LSD there. Then on down to Indiana U to pick up our son wearing cream and crimson at the soccer camp there, then on back to home sweet home. We got our kicks on some famous roads, and clocked 4,500 miles. Great times. 17 states, three time zones, four clocks. Whoa.
OK, you must be wondering what the heck that was all about and why you should care about my vacay. See after the ratings for an explanation!
And so, the Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
This was a very different ATLUTD game. Which is great, because it shows that Martino and his men can adapt. It was a patient, probing game with solid defense and opportunistic attack. Not what we are used to seeing, but it was still wonderful to watch, even if it wasn’t the team’s best game so far. With any luck, Kreis and his team must be wondering what the heck to expect at Bobby Dodd this weekend.
Man of the Match honors. Easy choice: Brad Guzan. 14 more performances like that will be very welcome over the remainder of the regular season. Special Mention goes to Tito Villalba; do I need to explain why?
GK: Brad Guzan - 8. Doubtless he will not have silenced his critics; haters gonna hate, after all. But: 5 shots on goal. 5 saves. Do the laundry-saving math. At least one, maybe two, save of the week candidates. Lots of screaming at his back line (Alec Kann may have missed that class in goalkeeping school), secure hands and good distribution. Should probably get an extra half point for sticking his tongue out at the Orlando supporters late in the game. He also led all players with the highest Audi Index score, which is rare for a keeper.
RB: Anton Walkes - 6. Walkes’ touch and passing charts show him all over the right side of the pitch, and he in fact led all players in passes with 56. However, his crosses left something to be desired and he didn’t look as confident on the ball as he has in the last couple of games.
CB: Michael Parkhurst - 7. First, I normally dock players a half point for incurring a yellow card, but Parky definitely took one for the team on that particular play. Overall, he had a very solid game, even if he was dealing with an offense that was largely lacking Cyle Larin (and, after today, Dom Dwyer). He had a significant 8 clearances for the game.
CB: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez – 6.5. Pretty much everything I said about Parkhurst also applies to Pirez, except he does get dinged for the yellow card.
LB: Greg Garza - 6. Greg was much less mobile in this game than usual. That may have had something to do with the game plan, but of the two fullbacks, he pushed far less forward and had far fewer touches.
CM: Jeff Larentowicz – 7. The Ginger Ninja, Big Red, Larry. You don’t accumulate that long a collection of nicknames unless you are a key component of a team. As usual, he remained the more defensive of the central midfield pairing, racking up 5 tackles and 3 clearances.
CM: Carlos Carmona - 6. A quietish night for C-Squared. 49 passes off 58 touches, well-distributed throughout the middle third of the field. However, he was not as successful getting the ball upfield quickly as in previous games.
CAM: Miguel Almiron - 6. It’s not often we get to say that Miggy struggled, but this was not the greatest night for Almiron. He amassed a huge 71 touches on the ball, but was able to convert only 51 of those to passes, although he did get three shots in, one of which was stopped magnificently by Joe Bendik. Still, he remains the engine that keeps Atlanta United going.
LW: Yamil Asad - 7. Maybe we need to start calling Asad the Weeble. You can knock him down, you can kick him in the head, but he gets right back up and keeps on going. At this stage a rough night for Yamil Asad means he was in the cage with both McGregor and Mayweather and had to go five rounds to win. The concussion incident shows how ridiculous the current protocol is and smacks of dirty pool by the Orlando bench. Lastly, he was ruled offside on a promising play; if he was it was by the nail on his big toe. Sensibly subbed out after 78 minutes on the off-chance he really did get his bell rung.
RW: Julian Gressel – 6. A rather undistinguished performance by Julian overall. As with Parkhurst, I am not docking him a half point for the yellow card, which was absolutely absurd and possibly helped get Asad back on the field a bit quicker. He was subbed out early-ish after 67 minutes in what turned out an unusual and effective strategic shift.
FWD: Tito Villalba - 8. I’m beginning to think that Tito is a big play guy. Well, all right, obviously he’s a big play guy. He can be relatively invisible and then does something great. But he’s not really a forward, at least not a forward in Tata’s system. After Vazquez came on, he shifted to left wing and Almiron moved up top in what was a kind of triangular substitution that won the game in the end. Came off after 89 minutes to bring Mikey Ambrose on to close out the game.
SUB: Brandon Vazquez - 6. Vazquez did get a shot in, but otherwise was not especially active, at least not as much as we have previously seen him. He’s definitely a work in progress and is potentially the big man we may somrtimes need up front. Expect to see more of him in the September fixture congestion.
SUB: Chris McCann - 6. 12 official minutes for McCann in relief of Asad. Technically a like-for-like substitution, I suppose, but Asad is clearly a far more mobile player..
SUB: Mikey Ambrose – Not rated. Replaced Villalba late and didn’t get to do much.
COACH: Tata Martino - 7. A new game plan, a crafty strategic adjustment late, and a W in the bag. A well-managed game by the boss.
FANS: Not rated. Not ours, theirs. Right now there is nothing I can say that adequately expresses my disgust at the goings-on Friday. I will say this – let’s show them what class means next week.
All right, now the explanation for the weird travelogue. It was, obviously, a long trip, and on trips like that you listen to a lot of music. I got to thinking about all the great songs that have been written about being on the road. Then it occurred to me that I could use that in my ratings piece instead of just filling it with my usual dumb jokes. The more observant of our readers (that is, all of you, being the crème de la crème of MLS fandom) will have already noticed some song references in there. Well, there are in fact 14 of them, some obvious, some fairly obscure, from various different musical genres and not all of them really about roads. So I have a two-part quiz for you:
- Can you identify all 14 songs referenced in the piece?
- What did I mean by “three time zones, four clocks”?
Answers in next week’s ratings!