About an hour before kickoff on Saturday I informed the rest of the DSS writing team that because my son was playing in the semi-finals of a JV tournament that afternoon, I wouldn’t be able to watch the Atlanta United game live. The immediate response was that that was probably a good thing. It turned out to be pretty prophetic.
What to say about the game? Regardless of the embarrassing score, it was easily the worst performance in Atlanta United’s admittedly brief history. The play was disorganized, disconnected and sloppy. The mistakes made were too numerous to count. Attack was ineffective and defense was one big ginormous hole that said to Houston Dynamo striker Alberth Elis “Welcome. The goal’s right there.” As if he wasn’t dangerous enough already.
The stats on this game are bizarre. United had 59.4% possession and 83% passing accuracy. It didn’t feel like that watching it, especially the passing accuracy. There were far too many giveaways for that to be real. On the other hand, Atlanta had 10% crossing accuracy, which is an indication that service was poor. Also, the teams were even in shots attempted (13), but 10 of Houston’s were on target compared with a miserable 2 for Atlanta.
One more thing to chew on: Atlanta has now failed to score in the last 196 minutes of competitive play.
The only good news in all of this was that at least this was a road loss. Road wins are hard to come by in MLS. In contrast, Toronto FC lost at home. We can at least cheer ourselves with that.
With a heavy heart, here are the Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
I thought long and hard about Man of the Match honors. I considered Brad Guzan, who prevented the debacle from being even worse with a 6-save effort, but he made a bonehead error that allowed the fourth goal. I also considered Michael Parkhurst, who was probably the team’s best defender coming on as a substitute. In the end, I decided that no one deserved any such praise and so there will be no MOTM this week. On the other hand, Special Mentions go to the entire team. Why? Because in my day job I am a banker, and in my business the term “special mention” has a very specific meaning. In brief, it refers to a loan that is about to go bad. Such a loan has “weaknesses that deserve management’s close attention.” Make of that what you will.
GK: Brad Guzan – 5. As noted above, Guzan managed to rack up 6 saves despite being left high and dry by his defense and making at least one critical mistake. All in all, a tough day at the office.
RB: Franco Escobar – 3. The Ironman was apparently pretty rusty. Despite looking good in limited preseason action, he was clearly unready for the big league. His forward movement was spotty, he attempted only 54 passes, and not only gave up a free kick with a pointless handball deep in Atlanta’s half, but also attempted a hand save on the ensuing goal.
CB: Jeff Larentowicz – 3. I hate to say it, but Jeff’s career is winding down at this point. Yes, he is a needed veteran presence, but his defensive support was sorely lacking. He was directly responsible for the second goal. Oddly, he led the team in passes with a relatively paltry 67.
CB: Leandro Gonzalez-Pirez – 2.5. A truly awful display. In the first 10 minutes, LGP managed to allow the first goal and nearly gave up a second with a horrendous giveaway. He also managed to get a yellow card, and was lucky not to get called for a penalty kick. All in a whopping 39 minutes.
LB: Greg Garza – 4. A completely uninspiring game for Greg. He did play his typical game, but was unable to produce any real offense. Defensively, he was mostly inactive, being as has historically been the case the more high-pressing of the two fullbacks.
RM: Darlington Nagbe – 4. Nagbe at least showed the kind of passing we were expecting from him, but he was not immune from the giveaway bug that infected the entire squad. In his case, he had the speed to recover and mostly repair the damage he caused, but overall an average performance at best. Came out after 61 minutes in a substitution that has more than a few Atlanta fans peeved.
LM: Chris McCann – 2.5. McCann showed some improvement late last season; this game was apparently a regression to his mean. Entirely ineffective both defensively and offensively, and picked up a yellow card into the bargain.
CAM: Julian Gressel – 2.5. With the exception of a mind-blowingly stupid yellow card right at the end of the seemingly never-ending first half, Gressel was utterly invisible. Playing him at CAM and pushing Miguel Almiron out to the wing was a rather odd lineup decision, and it clearly didn’t work.
RW: Tito Villalba – 4. Tito showed some glimpses of what we all know he can do, but was either stymied by Chris Seitz or failed to follow through adequately on his attempts. Taken out after 73 minutes.
LW: Miguel Almiron – 4. Missed an easy chance on goal, didn’t connect with Josef Martinez on another chance, and missed a PK. A very below-par game for Miggy, although he led the team in shots with 6 (including the PK).
FWD: Josef Martinez – 4. Only one attempt on goal, and not quite in position on a couple of other chances. Josef seemed to spend more time defending corners than he did attacking the Houston goal.
SUB: Michael Parkhurst – 5. Replaced LGP after 39 minutes and immediately improved the defense, with two key stops in the first half alone. Whatever kept him out of the starting XI and the preseason lineups obviously didn’t prevent him from being the best field player on the squad Saturday.
SUB: Kevin Kratz – 3. Played 29 minutes in a game that was already long beyond hope, and did very little to impress.
SUB: Brandon Vazquez – N/R. Came on with 17 minutes left and likewise did nothing to affect the already obvious outcome.
COACH: Tata Martino – 3. Other than screaming for space in the back to be filled, Martino’s management of this game was weak, to say the least. Also the decision to play Kratz rather than giving Andrew Carleton another run out against Houston seemed entirely unjustified.
STOPPAGE TIME – 7. Allen Chapman may have discovered the secret of time travel. Granted, there were three injury delays in the first half (one for Juan Cabezas and two for LGP) in addition to three goals in regular time, but 7 minutes added? Wow.