Do we all feel better now? Last week’s embarrassment has been excised, the curse of the raccoon has been broken, lots of money was raised for the Fugees Family, another attendance record was set. Normal service has been resumed.
There was much that was different from the Houston game. Not least of that was a canny tactical shake-up from Tata, who went with a 3-5-2 formation rather than the 4-2-3-1 we have become used to seeing from Atlanta United. It suited the available personnel far better, and the results were dramatically different. We’ll have more on that in further articles later this week.
Parker has already put crayon to paper and thoroughly examined the statistics of this game, but this was a long overdue and well-executed beatdown. Although the half-time score was only 1-0, it was to all intents and purposes already over. Josef Martinez apparently thought so, since he traded shirts with fellow Venezuelan Junior Moreno at that point in the proceedings. Atlanta had pummeled DC United with 9 shots in the half and could easily have been 3 goals up or more going into the break. DC in contrast had been completely outplayed and probably should have been wearing bibs. They managed a lone shot in the half, and that a wide header right at the whistle.
The Five Stripes played a very flexible gameplan, so much so that it was like watching the Netherlands of old using the total football concept. Players were routinely switching position. Check this from our own TiotalFootball:
woa #atlutd avg position vs #DCU pic.twitter.com/iGbWME0tAh— Tiotal Football (@TiotalFootball) March 12, 2018
See who is furthest up the field? Last year it was almost always Martinez (No. 7), who would stay high like any goal-poacher would. This year, in two games he has been tracking back more, and with obvious good effect on Sunday. So now it is Miguel Almiron (No. 10) who stands up front. Note also how high the back line, even Michael Parkhurst (No. 3), was. Note that this doesn’t mean Miggy wasn’t flying all over the field, because he was.
Let’s also consider the heatmap, from whoscored.com:
Atlanta had far deeper penetration than DC. The two large advanced red areas on the Atlanta side are largely due to Greg Garza and Julian Gressel playing in the wingback positions.
So, on to the Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
Man of the Match honors are hereby reinstated after a week off, and are awarded to Miguel Almiron, who put on quite a show. Special Mention goes to Tito Villalba, who also had a stand-out performance.
GK: Brad Guzan – 7. Brad had a grand total of 0 saves in the game, and was helpless on the late Darren Mattocks goal which broke what should have been a clean sheet. As a result, he spent the afternoon playing sweeper (again, refer to TiotalFootball’s tweet above).
CB: Franco Escobar – 6. A much better game, but still leaves room for improvement. He was much less active than LGP (55 passes vs. 78) but actually played in a more advanced role. He drew a yellow card but doesn’t get docked a half point, because it was totally bogus.
CB: Michael Parkhurst – 7. So Parky is 34? And was kept out of preseason lineups for precautionary reasons? Hard to tell. He has easily been the team’s best defender so far this young season and is moving around like a young’un.
CB: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez –4. LGP’s play so far this season is cause for concern. He is looking, well, less than sharp. He had a bad giveaway early in the game that was a virtual clone of the second giveaway last week, and lost track of Mattocks on the goal, earning him a very stern stare from Guzan. However, he led the team with 78 passes and 90 touches, which I guess increases his chances for making errors.
LWB: Greg Garza – 7. Several of the DSS writers are not entirely convinced Garza is best suited to the wingback position in this formation, but he performed well. He and Gressel were able to force a very high press against a relatively ineffective DC midfield. Like Escobar, he does not get docked for incurring a yellow card. In my opinion that was dangerous play at worst, which should have resulted in nothing worse than an indirect free kick and no card.
LM: Miguel Almiron – 9. OK, let’s see: a goal (and very nearly had another), an assist, 7 shots in total, 3 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 blocks, 83 touches of the ball. As near to a complete game as you’re going to get. Came out with a minute left to receive his standing ovation and get Andrew Carleton his cameo.
CM: Jeff Larentowicz – 7. So the ball deflected off Jeff leading to the goal, but that’s about all you can criticize him for. He had a pretty good scoring chance from distance, and was generally much more comfortable in his accustomed defensive midfield role than was as a center back last week.
RM: Darlington Nagbe – 7. Nagbe had a very solid first half (he was credited, rightly, with the secondary assist on Josef’s goal), but was not nearly as visible in the second. That’s what you get for deciding to do a pirate imitation. Actually, he took a fairly nasty knock to the head, which explains the slight slowdown.
RWB: Julian Gressel – 7. New position, new player. Of the entire team, Julian’s improvement in play from the Houston game was probably the most marked. He assisted on Miggy’s goal with a nifty piece of backward passing and was generally aggressive.
FWD: Tito Villalba – 8. Tito is increasingly relying on his speed and strength; not a bad decision. He is consistently blowing past defenders and being an all-round nuisance. Like Miggy, he could easily have scored at least one more goal. Left the game in the 81st minute.
FWD: Josef Martinez – 8. Scored what should have been the game-winner and was much more himself than last time. The fact that he is dropping back into midfield more is an interesting development (he did that against Houston too). We shall see what comes of this tactical shift. Given a brief rest after 85 minutes.
SUB: Kevin Kratz – 6. Replaced Tito to play clean-up and didn’t really have much to do.
SUB: Romario Williams – N/R. Had almost nothing to do in limited time replacing Martinez.
SUB: Andrew Carleton – N/R. Came on in place of Miggy to predictable huge cheers, played about a minute and touched the ball once, forcing a corner. More please.
COACH: Tata Martino – 9. Loses a point for not bringing Carleton in sooner, but otherwise was flawless in preparing for this game.
SUPPORTERS’ GROUPS – 10. Brilliant execution on the tifo. Well played.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Yamil Asad – 10. Possibly the first opposing player to get major appreciation from the MBS crowd, and left few dry eyes in the house when his hugs with his former teammates were displayed on the massive halo board.