Hmm. Last week Atlanta United played so-so in Orlando and won. This week, we played the self-same Orlando well and came out with a draw. By that tenuous logic, come September 16 we should play poorly and absolutely hammer them.
Nah. With the full stadium opened up, Orlando will face a screaming horde nearly three times their average home crowd and thus be totally overwhelmed. To make sure, maybe we should hang a giant ball of wool from the roof to distract the cute little kitties.
Anyway, as to this past Saturday, some are saying it was a draw that felt like a win for Atlanta, given the late equalizer from Tito. I am of the opposite opinion: this was a draw that felt like a loss. Why? Because we totally dominated this game. 64% possession, 17-10 shots, we forced them into 24 clearances (we had just 8). They had precisely 1 shot on target, and it wasn’t from their ludicrously expensive new striker, but from their even more ludicrously expensive old midfielder. In the end, this was one of those games where you completely outplay the opposition but somehow can’t find the back of the net. Still, it was great entertainment.
With all that in mind, on to this week’s Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
Man of the Match honors belong once again to Miguel Almiron, who by this time has probably hidden the hammer and spikes where no one else can find them. Special Mention goes to Tito Villalba for his repeat late-game heroics and most especially for making Orlando City fans really, really hate him.
GK: Brad Guzan – 7. Mr. Clean Sheet (which was clever, but as Brad himself noted, a bit premature) didn’t have much to do this week other than watch Kaka’s blast go into the upper 90. In fact, he had no saves on the day. However, his command of the defense looks to be getting strong very quickly.
RB: Anton Walkes – 6. Anton is a work in progress, but is coming along nicely. Which means that by the time we have him to where we want him, we’ll have to send him back to Spurs. In this game he was very active, with 87 total touches and 71 total passes, the majority of which were in the attacking half. He even got a shot in. 3 unsuccessful crosses though.
CB: Michael Parkhurst – 6. Parky is really solid and is definitely better with Guzan behind him. That being said, I really don’t understand why he is going to the All-Star game and Pirez is not. For this game though, it is difficult to really him, because he really had very little defending to do: 2 interceptions and 1 clearance. He was taken out after 76 minutes, possibly to conserve energy for a tough away game next week against Sporting Kansas City given his All-Star appearance Wednesday.
CB: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez – 7. LGP had a great game, barring the possible argument that he shouldn’t have ducked out of the way of Kaka’s shot, which likely would have inconveniently removed his head. Other than that, he was a real baller, winning 5 interceptions, 3 tackles and 2 clearances, as well having a headed shot on goal.
LB: Greg Garza – 6. For once, Garza was the less active fullback. He had only 38 touches (including one shot) and 35 passes. Like Walkes, he was pushed well forward. Like Walkes, his crosses (4 of them) were off. Subbed out with Parkhurst, and likely for the exact same reasons.
CM: Jeff Larentowicz – 7. As an LA Galaxy fan (hey, don’t scream, choke on your coffee, throw your phone on the ground, or whatever; I’m from the same side of London as Becks, okay?), I was never all that impressed with Jeff. These days, I’m finding it hard not to gush. So I will. Big Red is the greatest defensive midfielder ever to play in this league. ‘Nuff said.
CM: Carlos Carmona – 7. 83 touches. 73 passes. 50 successful passes in the attacking half. 18 successful passes in the final third. No shots this week, though. But he was everywhere, almost as much as…
CAM: Miguel Almiron – 8. About the only thing Miggy didn’t do Saturday was score, although he came as close as possible without actually doing so. He led all players in the game with a massive 1116 Audi Index (almost doubling Tito’s 569, the next best Atlanta score). He had 9 shots for the game (that’s just 1 less than the entire Orlando City squad, and 7 more than all their strikers combined). 96 touches, 60 passes. In all of that, he lost possession just 5 times.
LW: Yamil Asad – 7.5. Sometimes I think Asad needs to file a patent on perpetual motion. He sure never seems to stop. He notched up another assist this week to get him back up with the league leaders at 10 (along with 4 others). 47 completed passes in the attacking half and 23 in the final third. He is also the second most fouled player in the league this year (3.3 per game, just behind Seattle’s Nicolas Lodeiro at 3.4). Loses a half point for a yellow card.
RW: Julian Gressel – 6. Gresselmania is on the wane, I think, and it is becoming clear that Julian is best used as a sub when the four primary attacking players are all healthy. He was one the less active players on the team this week, and was subbed out after only 61 minutes.
FWD: Tito Villalba – 7.5. Tito has been criticized this season for not always taking his chances. Not true this week; he had 3 good shots and would have made the score sheet more than once if Joe Bendik hadn’t done a great Brad Guzan imitation (not fair, actually; I thought Bendik deserved an All-Star nod). Loses a half point for incurring a yellow card.
SUB: Brandon Vazquez – 6. Replaced Gressel, but was not as effective as he could have been. Of course, being a ridiculously tall striker is not much use if all the crosses look like field goal attempts.
SUB: Mikey Ambrose – 6. In 14 official minutes, Ambrose managed to rack up 20 touches and 17 passes despite having virtually no defending to do at that point.
SUB: Kevin Kratz – 6. Atlanta’s newly-minted domestic player returned from his bureaucratic rest stop back home in Germany. Was about as active as Ambrose.
COACH: Tata Martino – 7. A great game plan, and well-executed by his team. Sometimes you just don’t score enough.
STADIUM: Bobby Dodd – 9. I wish I could give you a 10, BDS, but then what would I rate that shiny new building just across town? Still, thanks for the memories. And at least your bleachers will get a rest now you’re only hosting Georgia Tech football games.
Answers to last week’s quiz:
In order the songs are:
1. Oklahoma City, clean and pretty streets: Cool, by Jabee
2. Amarillo, Sunday morning: (Is This the Way to) Amarillo, by Tony Christie
3. Tucumcari and Tucson: Willin’, by Little Feat (whose Oh, Atlanta really needs to be a chant)
4. Winslow, AZ, girls and flat-bed Fords: Take It Easy, by the Eagles
5. Way through the Rocky Mountains: Rocky Mountain Way, by Joe Walsh
6. Fire in the sky: Rocky Mountain High, by John Denver
7. Denver and the Rattlesnake Café: Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead, by Warren Zevon
8. Footprints in the sand and Cheyenne: Beaches of Cheyenne, by Garth Brooks
9. Omaha and the long highway east: Turn the Page, by Bob Seger
10. Chicago, the same old place: Sweet Home Chicago, by the Blues Brothers (and many others)
11. Slipped on LSD. This was probably the most obscure one: Lake Shore Drive, by Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah
12. Indiana University, cream and crimson: Indiana, Our Indiana, which is that school’s fight song
13. Home sweet home (which for me is Birmingham as noted at the start of the travelogue): Sweet Home Alabama, by Lynyrd Skynyrd
14. Got some kicks on famous roads: (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66, by Bobby Troup (and of course huge numbers of cover versions)
15. 4,500 miles and great times: Forty-Five Hundred Times, by Status Quo
As one commenter noted, although I was only in three time zones, most of Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings Time, and so I was effectively on Pacific Time while in that state.