Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Kansas City is boring. So is their soccer team. Sporting Kansas City has an overall record of 9-4-10. Those 10 ties are 2 more than any other team in MLS (Toronto FC has 8) and almost double the league average of 5.27. It’s as if someone told Peter Vermes 34 points are enough to make the playoffs (hint: they aren’t). Tata’s beef with him after the game was probably that there is a perfectly good parking lot outside the stadium and that the bus doesn’t belong inside it.
That being said, after last week’s tie that felt like a loss, this one was a tie that felt like grand larceny. Yes, SKC may be boring. Yes, SKC may play a rough CONCACAF style of soccer. But Atlanta United threw its normal game plan out and played it right along with them. Of the 6 yellow cards issued in the game, 5 were to Atlanta players. A couple of those were borderline reds, too. There were some pretty nasty fouls that weren’t sanctioned at all, such as this Wolverine imitation by Gerso Fernandes on Leandro Gonzalez Pirez:
Consider this: the game was so dull and the play so mediocre, the teams combined for more yellow cards than shots on goal (5). And one of those was a penalty kick.
The game was however notable for a couple of things. First, there was a complete absence of video review. Center referee Chris Penso apparently had absolutely no interest in it. That foul above deserved review for a potential red card, and possibly also the penalty kick given to SKC (it was a soft call, but I’m less upset about it than some others). Then there was this hilariously memorable (but ultimately harmless) blunder by Tim Melia:
Hopefully he got roasted in the locker room for that one. Anyway, here are this week’s Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
For my Man of the Match honors this week, I’m going completely off the reservation. Our newest supersub Jacob Peterson gets the award for his game-saving stoppage time goal and for being effective when almost no one else on the team was. Special Mention goes to another sub, Brandon Vazquez, for his assist on that goal, and for the same reason.
GK: Brad Guzan – 7. Guzan has now allowed 1 goal from the run of play in three games. Granted, the two teams he has faced combine for an average of 1.15 goals per game, but the defense he backstops was allowing 1.35 goals per game before he came on board. Even with the PK, his average is less than half that. He is the commanding presence the team sorely needed between the posts.
RB: Anton Walkes – 6. One of the better outfield players this week, Walkes responded well to the extension of his loan from Tottenham Hotspur to the end of this season. With Garza out on the left this week, the attack flowed through the right side much more than in most previous games. This was not great given Miguel Almiron’s clear preference for his left. Walkes was far the more active of the two fullbacks, getting 77 touches and 60 passes to Mikey Ambrose’s 41 and 33.
CB: Michael Parkhurst – 6. The Parkhurst-Pirez tandem is improving week by week. I’m not sure if it’s the natural development of their relationship as the season has progressed, the pulling back of Jeff Larentowicz in support, the addition of Guzan behind them, or some combination of those factors, but central defense is far less of a concern than when the season began. However, facing SKC’s anemic offense, he doesn’t score too well.
CB: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez – 5.5. Yamil Asad must have gotten tired of being the assigned punching bag. That tackle above on LGP looked really painful, although it clearly did not slow him down. LGP’s numbers on the day were pretty similar to Parkhurst’s, and their heat maps were virtual mirror images. I’m not inclined to mark him down for the penalty call, but the yellow for dissent briefly thereafter was silly.
LB: Mikey Ambrose – 5. Ambrose has made 4 appearances this season and a whopping 122 minutes, all but 18 of which were in the last two games. He’s also fairly young at 23. Thrust into his first start by Garza’s All-Star Game injury, it is not a shock that he was relatively ineffective. He picked up a yellow card for an obvious, but smart, tactical foul late in the game, for which he gets no demerit. Oddly, his heat map shows his positioning far more evenly distributed than Walkes’; he just wasn’t able to do anything with it.
CM: Jeff Larentowicz – 4.5. A little lucky to remain on the field after some crunching tackles and an early yellow card (and a half point ratings deduction), Jeff apparently relished the rough nature of this contest. He was subbed out after 71 minutes, having accumulated only 31 touches and 24 passes, including a very hopeful long-range shot.
CM: Carlos Carmona – 4.5. Nowhere near as good as last week. Like Larry, C-Squared incurred an early yellow card, which rather tied the hands of the central midfield pairing. He was slightly more active than Jeff, but not by much.
CAM: Miguel Almiron – 5. Miggy has set such a high standard for himself that when he has a bad game, it really stands out. This was one such game. He had only 51 touches and 31 passes, and was completely frustrated by SKC’s bunkering approach. This week he racked a whopping 106 Audi Index score compared with last week’s 1116.
LW: Yamil Asad – 3.5. Red cards aside, this may have been Asad’s worst performance of the year. Quite simply, he was unable to produce anything at all. 42 touches, 26 passes (of which only 13 were successful) and a yellow card. He amassed a game-low Audi Index of -286.
RW: Julian Gressel – 5. Another poor game for Julian, who is clearly struggling. He was very inactive other than the long-range shot that went about a yard wide. He attempted only 18 passes and completed only 8. Subbed out after 67 minutes.
FWD: Tito Villalba – 5. No late-game heroics for Tito this week, who was utterly negated by SKC’s defense. It didn’t help that he got very little service, but even so he did virtually nothing with what he got. Subbed out after 83 minutes.
SUB: Jacob Peterson – 7. Peterson clearly commands some significant respect in KC, for whom he played five seasons, earning himself the moniker “The Answer”. So much so that he was cheered when he came on for Julian Gressel; how often do you hear that for an opposing player? He did what you want from an attacking sub in a tight game. That is, he scored. Not a thing of beauty by any means, but you don’t get style points in soccer. Also kudos to him for honoring the tradition of not celebrating the goal too much against his former team.
SUB: Chris McCann – 6. Coming on for Larentowicz, in 19 official minutes, McCann was actually one of the more effective Atlanta players this game. He got much more forward than Larry typically does (partly indicating that SKC was already in protect the lead mode). He put together 21 touches and 18 passes in that time, of which only 5 were incomplete.
SUB: Brandon Vazquez – 7. Brandon did what a big midfielder is supposed to do: get stuck in with the defense. He was the assist on the game-tying goal, bringing the ball down nicely with two defenders on him and his back to the goal.
COACH: Tata Martino – 7. Not a great game plan (assuming the team did what he wanted). However, his substitutions were a tad surprising, but wonderfully effective.
MILITARY APPRECIATION DAY – 100. A bit late on my part, but to all you active, reserve and retired military, including my own oldest son – thank you.
FASHION SENSE: Sporting KC – 1. Peter Vermes looked like he was auditioning for a bit part on Suits. Way over the top. Military Appreciation Day or not, those brown cammo walkout shirts were fugly. And for heaven’s sake, Gerso, shave that ridiculous mustache.