Other than the staggeringly obvious conclusion that Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin are a couple of childish morons, it is very hard to draw anything meaningful out of Saturday night’s game. We enjoyed 20 minutes of soccer followed by 70 minutes of…something.
Still, I shall attempt this Herculean task:
- Josef Martinez is a goal-scoring machine (again, for those of you who thought he was in a slump). In addition to becoming the fastest player in MLS history to 5 hat tricks, he is now 3 goals clear of Bradley Wright-Phillips at the top of the Golden Boot race (although BWP has played 2 fewer games). He is scoring at a rate of 0.92 goals per 90 minutes, which is down from his record-setting pace of 1.12 last season but still a blistering speed. That would be good for another 18 goals if he plays every remaining minute.
- VAR worked precisely as it should in this game. There was a total of 8 reviewable incidents: 4 goals, 2 penalty decisions, and the 2 red cards. The only one reviewed on-field was the second penalty kick, which was correctly awarded as a result of the review. Everything else was deemed either called correctly by the referee or judged insufficiently clear to review. Also, that was the only VAR review in any MLS game this weekend.
- The Philadelphia Union were better after the double ejection. Either that, or Atlanta were worse. Bedoya leaving supports the first option. Medunjanin leaving supports the second.
- No Atlanta player was cautioned, thereby keeping the entire team safe for the upcoming game against New York City FC.
- Atlanta continues to extract monumental performances from opposing goalkeepers. Andre Blake single-handedly prevented this game from being a total blow-out.
- In the first 20:27 Atlanta took 5 shots (including the PK). They took 26 in the remaining time (70:33 including stoppage time). That’s a shot every 4:05 before the debacle and one every 3:06 afterwards. The 2-man advantage only generated 1 additional shot every 10 minutes.
In support of that last point, take a look at the shooting and distribution chart for Atlanta in the first 20:27:
That’s fairly active, and in fact that first part of the game was played at breakneck speed on both sides. Bear in mind too that Julian Gressel almost scored in the first 16 seconds, which would have made for a very different game.
The chart for the Union was almost as active over the same period, although they generated only 1 shot and their possession (47.5% up to that point) was concentrated in the central third. With Atlanta in the 3-5-2 and Philadelphia in the 4-2-3-1, it was a duel of build-from-the-back versus high press. After that, Atlanta switched to the 4-3-3, and played the rest of the way pretty much camped out in the Union’s half.
Another point that needs to be raised: Atlanta still has a problem on set piece defending. The Union goal resulted from the entire defense setting up too far to the right on a free kick that came in initially from their left, leaving the goal dangerously exposed on that side to a return ball from the right. And with a 2-man deficit, how on earth did 4 Union attackers get loose?
In fact, it’s even worse than that. In this shot, as the return ball is coming in, all 10 Atlanta field players in the shot, but only five are in the box, and none are positioned to have a chance at defending.
It’s also hard to rate players individually in a match in which 75% of total playing time was with a huge advantage. With that in mind, I’m going to be rather tough on the team, who, let’s face it, did not play well. Here, then, are the Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
Man of the Match goes to Josef Martinez, of course. No explanation needed. Special Mention was a bit tougher, but I’m going to give to Mikey Ambrose. It’s rare for a sub to get this honor, but Mikey was impressive in his 45 minutes.
GK: Brad Guzan – 6. Brad had 0 saves for the game. Not surprising really. Had no chance to stop Fabrice Picault’s goal, having been hung out to dry by appalling defensive work.
LB: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez – 7. LGP’s return to the XI after his yellow card suspension was shaping up to be a strong performance before the game changed. He was playing aggressively and confidently, and even took a shot in the 10th minute, even if it was from extreme long range. After the red cards, he sat in the central third and mostly played balls out to the left wing.
CB: Michael Parkhurst – 6. Did very little defensively, obviously. Played in a much more forward position than normal, also obviously. Completely went to sleep on Picault’s goal.
RB: Franco Escobar –7. Played a pretty decent game, all told. Made the adjustment from a center back to a full back seamlessly. He was far more aggressive than LGP in attack:
LWB: Chris McCann – 5. McCann played just the first half and was unimpressive, shall we say. He had no defensive plays to his credit, and had limited distribution up the left wing. Managed to get caught offside twice. Definitely a step down from recent good performances.
LDM: Jeff Larentowicz – 6. Larry made a game effort to be the grown-up on the field during the PK kerfuffle. To no avail. After that, he basically sat about 35 yards from the Philly goal distributing passes at leisure.
RDM: Darlington Nagbe – 6. One of these games Nagbe is going to score, and it will be a day of joy and celebration. He did take one off-target shot this game; otherwise he did what Darlington does, generally making a nuisance of himself in the midfield.
RWB: Julian Gressel – 7. Julian had a very busy game. In addition to attempting 7 shots, he also moved much more laterally than a wingback usually is expected to do, although his touchline play remains strong. He also continues to somehow sneak in under the radar, with opposing teams frequently ignoring him as they chase after Miggy.
CAM: Miguel Almiron – 8. An MLS Team of the Week performance. Miggy led MLS with a massive Audi Index score of 1692. He racked 113 touches, 94 passes and 7 shots. And let’s not forget his assist on Josef’s non-PK goal.
FWD: Josef Martinez – 9. I don’t care what people say about his propensity for scoring on weakened opposition. Or about how many of his goals are penalties. Or about him being offside (he wasn’t off once this game, BTW). Scoring 5 hat tricks in 34 games is a remarkable feat. His job is to score and if he takes advantage of the opposition’s mistakes to do that job, so what? You don’t want him to score, don’t do dumb stuff. Left the game in the 84th minute to predictable adulation.
FWD: Ezequiel Barco – 6. A minor step back for the youngster, who simply wasn’t on his game Saturday. I do not expect this to continue. However, it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to the postage stamp at Yankee Stadium next week. Came out after 76 minutes.
SUB: Mikey Ambrose – 8. Mikey exudes energy. Even just watching as he bounces up and down on the touchline waiting to come in, you know he’s going to give it his best shot. As much as any Atlanta player was a game-changer on Saturday, Ambrose was it. In one half he had 62 touches, 57 passes and 1 shot.
SUB: Brandon Vazquez – 6. Replaced Barco in the 76th minute and was generally underwhelming. However, he did attempt 3 shots, 2 of which were blocked and the last one saved.
SUB: Romario Williams – 6. Came on for Josef in what was basically garbage time. Didn’t do much.
COACH: Tata Martino – 7. Tough to rate a coach when the game plan goes out the window after 20 minutes. Does deserve some credit for having the formation switch after the red cards.
OPEN ROOF – 0. It’s summer. It’s the South. “Are you trying to air condition the entire neighborhood?” (with thanks to Alpharetta Dad)