Another week, another Atlanta United victory. That’s how things seem to go these days. Saturday night’s 2-0 win was nothing short of dominance. This week I am going to forgo my usual lengthy (but highly informative and amusing) intro, as I will be taking a deeper dive into some of the tactical details behind the victory in a piece later today. So, with that out of the way, let’s jump right into the ratings, okay?
Man of the Match is Julian Gressel. He didn’t light up the scoreboard, but his wingback play has been excellent, with his long-distance passing in this game appropriately Beckhamesque in its accuracy. Special Mention goes to Ezequiel Barco, who in his first start gave us a very good idea of what we can expect from the wunderkind going forward.
GK: Brad Guzan – 7. A fairly ho-hum game for Brad, who now has 3 clean sheets in 7 games. Forced into only one save, although he was commanding in the box on numerous other plays. If he keeps that up, we are good for the season. Mulling that over led me to this in-game tweet:
Sitting here watching the @ATLUTD game and thinking: I am so glad we will not lose Nagbe and Guzan for a month this summer. Am I a bad person?— John Fuller (@JohnKFuller) April 22, 2018
CB: Chris McCann – 8. Admit it: you were a NeverMcCanner. Maybe still are. But let’s face it, although he is clearly not the top of the defensive depth chart, he is for sure pulling his weight. He has started 6 games already this season, compared with 9 last year, and has racked up 56% of the total minutes he played in 2017. Even better, he did not incur that dreaded fifth yellow. Also, he notched 5 clearances and 2 interceptions. Oh, and let’s not forget the toasting of Zlatan.
CB: Michael Parkhurst – 7.5. Strong games are becoming run-of-the-mill for Parky. 6 clearances and 2 interceptions, but a surprisingly low 42 total touches given that Atlanta is playing out of the back so much these days. Gets a half point docked for a rather silly yellow card for time wasting (although I concede that Baldomero Toledo got a bit card-happy).
CB: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez –8. For the first time this season, LGP made it to the second half of a road game and ultimately went the full 90. He seems to be over his early season bonehead errors and made some very solid stops. 1 interception, 5 clearances.
LWB: Greg Garza – 7. At one point during the game, he looked like the bungee cord was going to be needed, as he was holding his left arm awkwardly. He played in a more aggressively forward position than Gressel on the opposite wing, although Julian was far more active.
LM: Jeff Larentowicz – 8. Really tempted to rate Jeff a 1 to match his new shirt number. Rumor has it Sam Jones is negotiating with Ink & Dagger to correct his tattoo. Instead, I’ll give him the number he dropped. 3 interceptions and 1 clearance on the night.
RM: Darlington Nagbe – 8. Another 2 shots from Nagbe on Saturday, and one was even from inside the box. Yet another solid performance, and he is clearly thriving in Tata’s scheme. Caleb Porter, where are you now?
RWB: Julian Gressel – 9. Julian managed 75% passing accuracy over 55 passes on Saturday. Not especially his, perhaps, but only Miguel Almiron attempted more passes, and almost none of those matched the distances Julian successfully attempted. Also, Gressel may be earning himself a new nickname: the Lone Ranger, because he sure seems to be all by himself a lot. Pulled at the 90 minute mark for cleanup reasons.
CAM: Miguel Almiron – 8.5. I said this last week: “About the only way NYCFC stopped him was by fouling.” Same plan, different team. Still didn’t work. Miggy bosses midfields, end of story. Scored on the late PK, but gets docked for the yellow card.
FWD: Josef Martinez – 7. Josef will probably never get an easier goal than this one, but he bounced back from a sub-par game last week, and soldiered on through the pain after accidentally whacking Sebastian Lletget with his injured hand. Barely missed a PK, which is a rarity for him, but he wasn’t alone in that this weekend, with four penalties actually being saved. Came off after 81 minutes in a rather obvious defensive move. Rumor has it that Atlanta sports stores are being deluged with requests for customized shinpads.
FWD: Ezequiel Barco – 8. Went 83 minutes in his first start for Atlanta, just missing out on the opportunity to demonstrate his PK skills. Overall, he had a very strong game, and clearly looked 90 minutes fit. Still learning to play with the team, obviously, but the interplay between him and Miggy (his road roommate, I believe) is going to be monster.
SUB: Kevin Kratz – 7. Replaced Josef to shore up the late game defense. Only had 6 touches, all passes, but was the defensive stalwart he was tasked to be.
SUB: Romario Williams – 8. Rule of thumb: never make substitutions on defensive corners. Tata tried in vain to get the 4th official to stop this very situation from happening, but Romario came on for Barco and proved the exception to the rule by getting the clearance on the corner with his very first touch. Didn’t do much offensively, but then he didn’t have to.
SUB: Sal Zizzo – N/R. Came on for Gressel in stoppage time as Tata went into full bus-parking mode. Didn’t have to do much at all.
COACH: Tata Martino – 8. Another well-planned game and a critical road win a long way from home.
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT – 0. LA smog is bad enough without the StubHub pyrotechnics crew adding to it, and dumping a massive pile of confetti every game doesn’t exactly ease the trash problem. Nor, to be honest, do the Adidas Parley shirts, which were, well, boring, and, as Jeff demonstrated, managed to convert garbage into…more garbage. Not only that, but they are also of questionable environmental benefit.