Someone needs to tell Rémi Garde that MARTA doesn’t stand for Montreal Area Rapid Transit Authority. In Atlanta we put soccer fields in transit stations, not the other way around.
The incredibly rude behavior of parking his bus on our lovely field worked for a while. Fortunately for Atlanta United, Chris Duvall recognized this disgraceful display on the part of our guests, and he kindly handed the keys over to Miguel Almiron who immediately moved the bus out of the way and allowed normal service to resume. 70 minutes of frustration gave way to 20 minutes of utter glee, and then to an extra-long evening of celebration.
This was a fascinating game tactically speaking. We’ve touched on that to some extent already, and I’ll be getting into it in detail in a post later this week (which will likely become a regular thing; so heat map aficionados fear not).
A few things to consider, though:
- Atlanta were, for about 24 hours at least, top of the Eastern Conference and the Supporters’ Shield standings. New York City FC’s defeat of FC Dallas on Sunday out then back on top by a point. United remain in the lead on PPG with a gaudy 2.38, and that same game knocked off the last unbeaten team and leaves Atlanta with the longest active unbeaten streak at 7.
- United put the ball in the back of the net 4 times off set pieces. Granted, one was called back, but still. The only other time we have scored 3 times off set pieces was last year’s 7-0 mauling of the New England Revolution. Two of those were PKs, and 1 guess as to who scored a free kick goal in that game (hint: he’s the only substitute in MLS history to score three free kick goals).
- Tata made an intentional tactical substitution at half time. Hell froze over, pigs fly, etc.
- Last season, Atlanta United was pretty much a one-trick pony. 4-2-3-1; high press; score early; dare the opponent to try and come back. This year we have won 6 of 8 games, and almost every win was completely different. The Five Stripes have become an opposing head coach’s nightmare, especially at full strength. And yes, I’m talking to you, Veljko Paunović.
In a pretty buoyant mood, on to the Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
Man of the Match was in fact a tough choice. There are two very obvious candidates. In the end, both were so deserving that I decided the only fair decision is to share the wealth. Therefore, Miguel Almiron and Kevin Kratz are named Joint Men of the Match. Special Mention for the second straight game goes to Ezequiel Barco, who didn’t complain too much when Miggy took the first PK, and has clearly adapted into the Atlanta United philosophy very quickly indeed.
GK: Brad Guzan – 8. Brad was left high and dry by LGP, Julian and Darlington on the Saphir Taïder goal, who all apparently decided he was absolutely no threat. Other than that, Montreal only had one other shot on goal (by Alejandro Silva in the 52nd minute), and Guzan covered it well. Had he not, the final result could have been very different.
CB: Chris McCann – 8. Chris led all players with 109 touches and 102 passes. To put those in perspective, the entire Montreal squad tallied only 393 and 258 respectively. A good half of those were in the attacking half, as you might suspect. He also had 5 tackles, splitting the team lead with Darlington Nagbe.
CB: Michael Parkhurst – 7. As the man at the back, Parky wasn’t exactly called on to do anywhere near as much in this game as is typical. Atlanta pressed so high almost the entire game that he was in large part left out of it. That being said, nearly half of his touches and passes were in the attacking half anyway.
CB: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez –6.5. As noted above, LGP was at least partially responsible for the Montreal goal, and also picked up a rather silly yellow card. He was however very active in the attack, and at one point was chopped down pretty mercilessly just outside the Montreal 18.
LWB: Greg Garza – 6.5. Other than his 1 shot, Greg stayed very wide most of the game (there are tactical reasons for that) and was largely ineffective. He also picked up a yellow card, which in the stadium I had presumed was given to Duvall (who probably should have also gotten one for his reaction). On later review, though, the card was fully deserved and was not that far off a red.
LM: Jeff Larentowicz – 7. Larry did very Larry stuff for 45 minutes, before a very interesting half-time substitution left him a spectator to a magnificent turnaround.
RM: Darlington Nagbe – 7. A not especially noteworthy game for Nagbe, who seemed rather invisible at times. However, he was trying to make things happen. His personal heatmap shows him moving all over the field in search of space, which unfortunately for much of the game was not to be found.
RWB: Julian Gressel – 7. Julian was subject to the same problems on the right wing that Garza faced on the left. Indeed, their touch, passing and heatmaps are nearly mirror images. Resorted to bombing crosses in – 10 of them, and all unsuccessful. Garza attempted only 3.
CAM: Miguel Almiron – 8.5. Picked up a yellow card for time wasting, but otherwise was his typical self and valiantly tried to create plays all game, eventually finding success. If there is a faster player in MLS with the ball at his feet, I don’t know who that is. <Man, is he exciting to watch, and we are going to miss him when he’s gone.
FWD: Josef Martinez – 7. At some point, Josef is going to adjust his style of trying to spring the offside trap. He was clearly offside on the early free kick. I will not fault him for switching off when Evan Bush fumbled; in situations like that any striker will assume a clean recovery; besides, since he was behind Bush he probably wasn’t in a position to capitalize anyway. Other than that, he was a lonely guy waiting for service that Montreal would not allow.
FWD: Ezequiel Barco – 8. I am really tempted to start calling him Mini-Miggy, because he sure looks like he’s a very similar player. Good with the ball, great acceleration, ability to move past defenders, and draws fouls. He’s also much like early Almiron last year in that he’s a little hesitant to pull the trigger on shots (he has 3 to date). When he is fully up to speed (which I predict will be very soon), watch out MLS.
SUB: Tito Villalba – 7. Tata rolled the dice at half time and brought Tito in. In the end, he didn’t have much of an impact on the game. In fact, he only touched the ball 21 times, including 2 shots, 7 passes, 3 dribbles, and 6 losses of possession.
SUB: Kevin Kratz – 9. Came on for Garza in the 74th minute. I said last week that Gressel was proving Beckhamesque in his long-range passing. Well, we haven’t had much occasion to observe Kevin proving the same with free kicks, but man what a show. He got a Goal of the Week nomination for the first one, but personally I thought the second one was better.
SUB: Franco Escobar – N/R. Came on for Barco after 88 minutes for clean-up duty. Touched the ball just once.
COACH: Tata Martino – 8. Great game management and adjustments. What else is there to say?
FIRST KICK: Judd Hiley – 10. Regular readers will know I support pediatric cancer research. Glad to see this young man on the field Saturday. Keep up the good fight, Judd.