When this game was scheduled, I circled it on my calendar, highlighted it, underlined it, tagged it with as many sticky notes as I could find. I was not going to miss this game. It was my shiny new promising local team going up against my long-time favorite and ever-powerful MLS team. And then it got rescheduled to my birthday. The soccer gods were smiling on me, it seemed.
That was before I knew how truly awful this year’s edition of the L.A. Galaxy were going to be. Even in the ill-advised Ruud Gullit days they were not this bad. But coming in off a 4-0 loss at home against Toronto FC, followed by a closed-doors team meeting, I had no idea what to expect from them. They have also been better on the road than at home (collecting 17 of their 27 points away from the StubHub Center), although that’s not saying much.
20 minutes in I had my answer. The Galaxy were good for about 9 minutes of fairly even soccer. After that, not so much. 39 minutes in, Jermaine Jones had apparently had enough and left to check out the Atlanta night life. By half time it was all over, and in the second half Atlanta United decided not to incur the wrath of Gab Marcotti again and resorted to playing keep-away for 45 minutes. That’s not a snarky comment, by the way. Well, yes, it is, but take a look at the possession chart:
United also had 728 touches to LA’s 453, a 62/38 split. Total domination and total capitulation. The Galaxy are a team in utter disarray and will likely be unrecognizable in 2018.
Here’s an interesting stat: there were zero crosses attempted in this game. The Galaxy obviously were given no opportunity to get wide, but Atlanta at the Benz have utilized the field’s extra wide ruthlessly so far. What this means is that the Galaxy defense was so inept that Atlanta’s wingers and fullbacks had free rein to get into the box. Why cross the ball when you can walk it in?
So this game gave me something of a quandary with the player ratings. Do I rate everyone based on the entire game, or should I just consider the first half? In the end, I decided on the full game, but weighted heavily to the first half. With that in mind, here are the Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
Man of the Match honors go to Yamil Asad, breaking Josef Martinez’s streak. Scoring twice and providing the assists on the 2 other goals will get you there. Special Mention goes to Leandro Gonzalez Pirez for a very strong performance, reminding us all how we missed him against Orlando City.
GK: Brad Guzan – 7. In the 3 days between the Orlando game and this one, Brad must have been working on his jumping. Really hard. Or he put springs in his cleats. Whichever, he was tested only once in the game, reaching very high to push a wide Giovani dos Santos attempt over the crossbar.
RB: Anton Walkes – 7. Anton was clearly determined to atone for his errors last weekend, and indeed had a much improved game, although he was not under any real defensive pressure. As usual, he was the less advanced of the two fullbacks, even with Chris McCann on the left side rather than Greg Garza. Subbed out after 70 minutes for a well-earned rest.
CB: Michael Parkhurst – 7. Took the opportunity to get upfield. Of his 82 passes, none were inside the penalty area. He had 2 good clearances but needed to make 0 tackles. In other words, he had no trouble at all.
CB: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez – 9. LGP had a staggering123 touches in this game. That includes a shot, and a great stop in the box that prevented Guzan from having to make a potentially difficult save early in the game. He was literally everywhere Wednesday night.
LB: Chris McCann – 7. McCann is making the most of Garza’s absence to get some meaningful minutes, given that there is a good chance he is playing for his job next season. Got around the field very actively, and also made a good headed clearance.
CM: Jeff Larentowicz – 7. Other than skying a shot on goal, Jeff did very little wrong in this game. Played slightly further back than Carlos Carmona, as usual, not that you could really tell. 24 of his 53 successful passes were in the attacking half. That’s high by Jeff standards.
CM: Carlos Carmona – 7. Another quiet game for the always solid Carmona. Moved the ball around well, but was not exactly troubled in any way all game.
CAM: Miguel Almiron – 8. Miggy finally breaks his scoring drought, and was credited with the secondary assist on Asad’s second goal. Atlanta’s attacking midfield totally owned this game, and the Galaxy’s defenders had absolutely no idea how to contain them. They all roamed completely at will and utterly outpaced them. Was back to his smiling self, and was given a chance for a brief rest and recognition from the crowd after 79 minutes.
LW: Yamil Asad – 9. The Galaxy clearly did not get the memo that the way to stop Asad is to foul him. They were barely able to touch him. The first goal went through 4 players, including Jon Kempin. On the second goal, there was some question as to whether he was offside on Miggy’s pass to Tito, but he was in an offside position because the defense had simply let him pass through. That’s allowed. He was behind the ball on Tito’s final pass, and the goal was good.
RW: Tito Villalba – 8. Villalba loves the Benz. He is a reenergized player and is performing great. Also it’s about time this was said. Tito face > Deuce face:
FWD: Josef Martinez – 9. Josef has scored 8 goals in 4 games. Diego Valeri took twice that long. Piker. I had different seats for this game. Previously I’ve always been on the goal line (which I far prefer, in fact), but this time I was over one of the corners and was better able to see how Josef positions himself relative to the defense. As it turns out, he sits in an offside position virtually the entire time, but has an uncanny knack to read the progress behind him and knows exactly when to get back onside and become a scoring threat. Incredible to watch. Came off after 76 minutes and received a predictable standing ovation.
SUB: Tyrone Mears – 6. Came on for Walkes after 70 minutes. Really had nothing to do but take a light jog.
SUB: Jacob Peterson – 6. Replaced Josef. Like Mears, his presence on the field was to finish out the game, and no late game stunner was forthcoming.
SUB: Brandon Vazquez – N/R. Poor Brandon was on the field barely 2 minutes before getting sent off for his challenge on Michael Ciani. He looked both staggered and dismayed at the red card. Adrian Healey and Alejandro Moreno discussed this at some length in the broadcast (Moreno also spotted the Jones red card foul immediately), noting that there was clearly no excessive force or endangerment in the challenge, one of which is required for a dismissal. The VAR appeared to think that too, otherwise Salazar would not have performed a review. He upheld his initial call though, and my guess is United will not appeal.
COACH: Tata Martino – 7. I’d rate him higher, but was there really any coaching he had to do for this game? Made some sensible substitutions though.
A parting note: think on this: in 4 games at the Benz, United have outshot their opponents 70-23 (a ratio of 3.04-1). Shots on target have been 36-8 (4.5-1), and goals of course 17-3 (5.67-1). Of Atlanta’s shots, 51.4% have been on target, and 24.3% have scored. 47.2% of shots on target have gone in.