For the first time ever Atlanta United have lost two straight home games. Once again, they controlled early but could not finish when it mattered. Once again, Josef Martinez had a goal disallowed. Once again, a red card was incurred. This is beginning to sound like a broken record.
Yes, this was a tough loss, but Atlanta remains top of the standings, although the team has slipped a point behind New York City FC in the aggregate points race for the CCL. Also, we have a 10-day break before the next game against the New England Revolution. Moreover, any existing injuries should have had time to heal. That’s the good news. The bad news is that after that 10-day break the schedule has 4 games in 15 days, and 3 of those on the road, including 2 against NYCFC and the Columbus Crew. The other bad news is that Leandro Gonzalez Pirez will be out for the first game with yellow card accumulation, as will Greg Garza, whether for the injury or for the red card (note: if he is out for the injury, he will still need to serve the suspension once he is cleared to play).
Also good news, although of less direct importance to United fans, is that New York’s Kemar Lawrence appears to be OK. All tests were negative and he was cleared to return home Monday.
I’m going to have a lot more to say about this game, and in particular about video review, later this week, so be watching out for that. In the meantime, here are the Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
Man of the Match goes to Ezequiel Barco, who is now just 2 goals short of his career total at Independiente. In addition to a very nice goal, he also ran rings around the New York midfield. Special Mention goes to Miguel Almiron, who was a workhorse as usual and in fact led all players in the game with an Audi Index score of 809 (even beating the 2-goal performance of Bradley Wright-Phillips).
GK: Brad Guzan – 6. I have read (although I can’t locate the reference) that a keeper has a 33% chance of saving a PK if he stays standing, as compared with 15-20% if he dives. That would have served Guzan well on Sunday, as Daniel Royer’s kick went straight up the middle. Still, the keeper is forced to make a choice. Couldn’t really do much on BWP’s 2 goals.
LB: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez – 5.5. LGP was everywhere on the field Sunday trying to make things happen. It was not to be. He was also very lucky not to get a red card for what looked like an obvious DOGSO foul, instead getting off the hook with just a yellow.
CB: Michael Parkhurst – 6. Most of Parky’s defensive work was typically strong, but he admitted to losing the mark on BWP for the go-ahead goal. Led the team (again) in interceptions with 8. Also had 4 clearances and 4 blocks.
RB: Miles Robinson –6. Played only 64 minutes and gave up the foul on BWP for the PK, but was otherwise pretty solid. That PK foul was very soft, much more so than Higuita’s last week. Miles has definitely earned himself more playing time. With LGP out, and assuming France is healthy, I predict a Robinson-Parkhurst-Escobar back line next Wednesday.
LWB: Greg Garza – 5. Was it a red or not? That is a big question. However, his exit from the game for the red card pretty much sealed United’s fate in this game. Even so, Garza was largely ineffective Sunday, touching the ball only 31 times in 71 minutes, well below his average.
LDM: Jeff Larentowicz – 5.5. Larry was the beneficiary of Atlanta’s second VAR-reversed red card this season early in the second half. Ended up with a yellow instead. Made a bicycle kick golazo attempt from the top of the 18 which ended up going nowhere. Left after 64 minutes as Tata tried to salvage something from the game.
RDM: Darlington Nagbe – 6. Nagbe was something of a spectator in this game as Atlanta tried the long ball. He completed an impressive 85% of his passes. But he only attempted 27 of them. That’s a waste of of a great player.
RWB: Julian Gressel – 6. Julian led the team in touches (81) and passes(68). However, he was off in his accuracy again, and completed only one pass all night in the attacking third (on Larry’s bicycle kick).
CAM: Miguel Almiron – 7. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if Miggy isn’t doing too much. For sure in this game he tried to carry the team on his back. He generated fully half of Atlanta’s 12 shots, but all of them were from long range (the team as a whole only had 4 shots inside the 18).
FWD: Josef Martinez – 7. Having knocked his first shot (and officially only shot) straight at stand-in Ryan Meara, Josef wisely ran around him on the second try only to see it called off. Other than that, he was unable to get underneath the numerous long balls dumped in his general direction.
FWD: Ezequiel Barco – 8. As noted above, this was a very solid performance from the youngster, who was visibly upset to leave after 72 minutes. Getting better every week.
SUB: Kevin Kratz – 6. Entered in a double switch that was a clear roll of the dice by Tata. Managed 20 touches and 18 passes in 26 official minutes. That doesn’t sound bad, except that only 2 of those were in the attacking half, and none in the attacking third.
SUB: Tito Villalba – 6. Only 10 passes and 1 shot for Tito, in what was a frustrating evening for him, but then he only played 7 minutes with Atlanta at full strength.
SUB: Sal Zizzo – 6. Given Tata’s evident attempts to make something happen in the second half, and his apparent decision to go all in earlier, Zizzo was a slightly strange substitution. He did try to force play forward though.
COACH: Tata Martino – 7. Had the right game plan early. However, it has to be said that the team rather lost the plot after the equalizing penalty.
JANITORIAL STAFF – 0. What do you mean, you didn’t have to pick anything up off the pitch?