The answer in a bit.
First, I’ve been wondering ever since Saturday afternoon what new way the Revs will come up with next time to embarrass themselves at the Benz. Last season, they accepted a 7-0 thrashing without a shot; this season, they gave up a goal to a 16-year-old, and proceeded to let him walk all over them the rest of the game. If this goes on, sooner or later they will begin to tax their creativity.
I do have a theory as to why this keeps happening to them in Atlanta though: it’s because they can’t believe an artificial turf field can be this good in a stadium this good.
It doesn’t really show in the scoreline, of course, but this was in fact another old-fashioned beatdown. New England approached this game with much the same tactical approach as last year; namely, get physical. They didn’t get any red cards, but did rack up 4 yellows (to Atlanta's zero) while committing a massive 20 fouls. As before, it completely and utterly failed to work.
But for an offside call (a correct one, in contrast to at least one incorrect call later), Atlanta would have been up a goal after just 68 seconds. Since it was George Bello’s cross that fed the play, you’d think the Revs would have paid him rather more attention. Instead they treated the same way that Julian Gressel has been treated by most teams all season: they pretty much ignored him. Unfortunately for those of us not able to be in the stadium, Univision also chose to ignore him about 15 minutes later and nearly missed his goal completely by opting to show about five replays of a foul on Miguel Almiron.
Not only was that goal scored by a player still unable to drive, it was scored by a wingback assisted by a centerback. From a dead ball restart. This is not good.
Other than that, it was plain sailing for the Five Stripes who managed an impressive 62.2% possession against a full-strength team and led in most significant statistical categories. That includes offsides: Atlanta was caught offside 6 times in the game. Three of those were our boy George, who was clearly able to find penetration. Oddly, Atlanta outshot New England only 13 to 11. But New England did have a shot on target until early in the second half, and only 3 in the entire game.
A look at the heatmap:
This would at first glance suggest that Atlanta was absorbing heavy pressure. However, the touch numbers contradict that impression. Atlanta played the ball almost 50% more than New England. This was a glorified kickaround more than anything else.
So, the good was obviously Atlanta. The bad was New England. The ugly was
Brad Friedel Miggy going to Arsenal possibly injuring a hamstring. That was about the only thing that went wrong all afternoon. Trouble is, it’s potentially a big thing. We will have to wait and see.
Back to the trivia question: those four teams have now all played Atlanta at least four times in the regular season (6 in Orlando’s case) and have come away with 2 points or less from those four matchups. Columbus in fact has lost all four regular season games against Atlanta. The Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders also have taken just 2 points from the Five Stripes, but they did that in only 2 games each. Taking that a bit further, there are only 10 teams in the entire league that have registered wins against our boys. Less than half. With that, here are a couple more trivia questions:
- Other than Columbus, there are 5 teams who have never taken a point from Atlanta. Who are they? (Hint: they are all in the Western Conference)
- Other than Portland and Seattle, one other team has never lost to Atlanta. Who?
Answers after the ratings:
There will be no Man of the Match this week. George Bello is, after all, just 16 years old. Call him MVP instead. Special Mentions go to Julian Gressel, who continues his superb season, and to Eric Remedi, who was a commanding presence in midfield.
GK: Brad Guzan – 7. Lost his clean sheet late. Very late. Otherwise a relaxing afternoon with just two saves.
LB: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez – 8. Here’s another indication of how much Atlanta just knocked the ball around in the backfield: LGP had an incredible 111 touches in the game. Of those 81 were passes. took the well-placed free kick to set Bello loose, and also had 4 tackles, 1 interception, 9 (yes, 9) clearances and 1 block.
CB: Michael Parkhurst – 7. A much improved performance from Parky, but he wasn’t exactly taxed. 2 tackles, 1 interceptions, 8 clearances and 1 block. 3rd in touches with 91.
RB: Jeff Larentowicz – 7. 5 tackles, 2 interceptions, 3 clearances and 2 blocks. 2nd in touches with 92. It’s as if the back line were playing keep-away. And winning easily.
LW: George Bello – 9. Atlanta's new wunderkind does it again, with style. Other than the goal and the called-off assist, he had 4 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 clearance and 3 blocks. Bello is very well named. By the way, if you are interested in who the five younger goalscorers were in MLS, here are the actual goals:
I’m sure most of you guessed Freddy Adu at least, but it may be a surprise that one of them was in the game Saturday. Bello missed the top five by 4 days.
DM: Eric Remedi – 8. Remedi’s passing accuracy was a surprisingly low 79.3%. It sure didn’t feel that low. However, he put up a game-high 6 tackles and backed that up with 3 blocks. He and Darlington Nagbe have developed a very good partnership over relatively few games in light of Nagbe’s injury absence.
DM: Darlington Nagbe – 7. Man is it good to see him back to full strength. 91.4% passing accuracy but was not called on to make any really key plays. he has gone the full 90 twice now since returning to the squad and looks just fine.
RW: Julian Gressel – 8. The Invisible Man does it again. You have to wonder: does he ever get lonely hanging out on the wing all by himself? It is increasingly bewildering that teams leave him alone given that he is such a threat.
LAM: Miguel Almiron – 7. Miggy was looking good up until the injury despite getting repeatedly hacked from behind. the injury looked to be totally non-contact though, and he was obviously devastated not to be able to continue.
SUB: Ezequiel Barco – 7. I don’t usually list subs until the end, but given how early he had to come in to replace Miggy, he was almost a starter. And it now looks like he will hang on to that status for at least two games. I have said in the past that he may be more suited to a central attacking midfield slot than Miggy, given that they tend to drift in opposite directions (Miggy to the left, Barco to the right) and we may see that tested. Here though, he was tasked to remain on the left and did just fine. One key aspect of his game: he is very good at drawing fouls. Of the 20 fouls committed by New England, 5 were on Barco.
RAM: Tito Villalba – 7. Played a solid game, leading the team with 5 shots, although only one was on goal. Left in the 67th minute.
FWD: Josef Martinez – 7. Let’s get this out of the way first: talk of a slump is BS, OK? Although he had only three shots in the game, he did find the back of the net early (that does not count in the shot total) and could have had a goal later on. He is also making a nuisance of himself defensively more and more: he had 3 clearances in this game.
SUB: Franco Escobar – 7. Replaced Tito to see the game out. Made 3 tackles but was otherwise not really called on.
COACH: Tata Martino – 7. Went with a 3-4-3 this time, and it worked out very nicely, thank you.