Has anyone thought how boring it’s going to be next year when we get back to a normal schedule with only one game most weeks? What are we all going to do on Wednesday evenings? Yes, I know this game was played on a Sunday, but that thought just occurred to me.
This was yet another solid home performance from the good guys. Atlanta United are now 4-0-1 in the Friendly Wide Open Spaces, outscoring opponents 19-3 and outshooting them 85-26. How’s that for dominance? Under the circumstances of this meeting, though, the team excelled against an unpredictable opponent. Unpredictable, you say? The Montreal Impact came to the Benz off a 5-3 win at Toronto FC. Yes, Toronto were without some key starters, but they are probably also the deepest squad in MLS. But that win followed a 3-2 home loss to Minnesota United. On top of that, they are fighting for their playoff lives. Then, their home field measures 120x77, which is I believe the only field in the league bigger than the Benz. That meant they were already accustomed to playing in space.
Not that you could tell. For the majority of the game, it seemed that Montreal were under the impression that the field ended at the attacking third. Either that, or Atlanta were really good at keeping them out. Nah, that first reason obviously makes the most sense.
Let’s compare via heatmap (from whoscored.com). Here are Atlanta’s back four plus Jeff Larentowicz against Montreal’s front three, plus the two wingbacks and the sub (Michael Salazar) who replaced one of them:
Basically, they ran into a brick wall. That became more and more the case as the game progressed, even as Atlanta allowed them to control the ball; United ended the first half with 64% possession and one shot allowed (a late and very wide attempt), but that advantage dropped to 54% by the end of the game and three shots allowed. It was a game of shifting tactics from Atlanta; it started with the familiar high press, and shifted to a counter attack approach. It’s possible the injury to Miguel Almiron contributed to that. In any event, it was a defensive showcase, and the 3 shots allowed in this game were in my mind far more impressive than the 0 allowed against New England.
Without further ado, here are the Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
If you listened to the Soccer Down Here podcast on Monday, you will have heard me state that I was undecided on Man of the Match honors. I finally concluded to award them to Carlos Carmona. He was a commanding presence in midfield all game, and topped it off with his second assist of the season on the game-winning goal. Special Mention for the second straight game goes to Leandro Gonzalez Pirez for being a total rock, and getting his revenge for the undeserved red card in the game at Montreal (don’t bother commenting that I thought the card was correct. I was wrong. Sue me).
GK: Brad Guzan – 8. Made two saves. One was a routine stop on a poorly taken free kick, the other was a great foot save on Salazar. Other than that he managed the defense expertly, and took it upon himself to keep the balls clean.
Caption this... pic.twitter.com/9hkWW6sbFp— Major League Soccer (@MLS) September 25, 2017
RB: Anton Walkes – 8. Another good game from the young Englishman, who appears to have shaken off his poor outing against Orlando City. He is showing more confidence going forward, and is making fewer errors in defense.
CB: Michael Parkhurst – 7. Parky had 1 tackle and 1 clearance, which tends to show a) that Montreal couldn’t penetrate and b that most of the defensive work is done by LGP. Nevertheless, he is a great captain and the experience that he and Guzan offer this team is invaluable.
CB: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez – 9. LGP, don’t ever dare miss another game, OK? An outstanding display all around, most notable for the stop he made on a beautiful slide tackle from behind Ignacio Piatti, preventing a certain shot on goal.
LB: Chris McCann – 8. McCann has apparently played this position very rarely over his career, but is evidently settling into it very well and looks to be enjoying himself in the process. He had 83 touches, second only to Yamil Asad, and moved a lot quicker than any of probably expected. His crosses were also on the mark.
CM: Jeff Larentowicz – 8. All right, it was off his chest. OK, it was a deflection of a Josef Martinez header. But hey, it counts anyway. And so far it has produced one tattoo and $1,593 to a deserving cause. If you haven’t already donated, why not?
CM: Carlos Carmona – 9. I’ve already opined on C-Squared’s performance above. He racked up 595 Audi Index points, behind only Tito and Jeff, whose scores were boosted by their goals.
CAM: Miguel Almiron – 7. From Miggy Smiles to Miggy Cries in 15 minutes. Even in that abbreviated and partially hobbled time, he was able to produce 2 shots, 7 passes and 1 tackle. Left in tears, possibly mostly because he realizes he will miss critical World Cup qualifiers for Paraguay (one of which would have been against Josef’s Venezuela).
LW: Yamil Asad – 8. Atlanta United’s very own Energizer bunny is still going strong. Not his best statistical performance this season, although he did boost his fouls incurred record by 6. He remains just a hair behind Nicolas Lodeiro in that category at 3.2 per game.
RW: Tito Villalba – 9. As of this writing, Tito is leading Marco Donadel by only 2 points for Goal of the Week. Go vote! That was a likely Goal of the Season candidate. Other than that, he was everywhere in his 77 minutes. And have I mentioned Tito-face?
When you realize it's going in the top corner pic.twitter.com/CD6sX3lJk4— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) September 26, 2017
No, there will be no tattoo, so don’t ask.
FWD: Josef Martinez – 7. By Josef’s self- elevated standards, this was not his best game by far. He had several opportunities to score, and failed to finish on all of them. It just wasn’t his day. Even an obvious handball call in the box didn’t go his way. Subbed out after 89 minutes.
SUB: Julian Gressel – 8. Came on for Miggy and did an excellent job, even getting the assist on Jeff’s goal. Is he the solution for a multi-game Almiron absence? I don’t think so, but we shall see soon enough.
SUB: Kevin Kratz – 8. Replaced Tito. Racked up 8 passes, 1 tackle and 1 interception, getting all over the field to do it. Kevin is my choice to fill in for Miggy.
SUB: Kenwyne Jones – 8. We haven’t seen Barber Jones in a awhile, so it was good to know he is fit again. He was brought on right before a Montreal corner, which I thought a smart move, and proved it by providing the clearance. Proceeded to run around freely and made his presence felt in the 2 or 3 minutes he was in the game.
COACH: Tat Martino – 8. Made some good substitutions and adjusted well for Almiron’s sudden absence. However, you have to wonder if he shouldn’t have spelled his starters more during this stretch.
DSS WRITER: Sam Jones – -10/+10. -10 for totally underestimating the power of the Atlanta United Twitterverse. +10 for turning it into an opportunity for good.