Last year’s boogeyman beat Atlanta United three times by an aggregate score of 6-2. This was of course an intolerable situation that could not be allowed to stand and the good guys have now won both meetings so far this season by that same aggregate score. A third meeting is in the offing, to be held September 2nd at Audi Field.
In an odd piece of synchronicity, MLS’ newest aging superstar, Wayne Raccooney, has played in 2 games so far, both ending in 3-1 scorelines. They worked rather differently for him though. He has also played those 2 games in 2 of the 3 newest stadiums in MLS (the other being Los Angeles FC’s Banc of California Stadium). When he gets to Yankee Stadium on September 8th he is in for a rude awakening. Well, another rude awakening.
Whereas the Seattle Sounders came to town last week intent on not playing soccer, D.D United showed up this week with apparently very little idea as to how to play soccer (except for Yamil Asad, of course). Olsen’s Bennyball tactics worked against the Five Stripes last season, probably because Atlanta thought they were in fact on bye weeks. They most certainly did not work on Saturday, other than for one counter allowed by what was apparently a staggering error by Atlanta. I say “apparently” because Univision chose that moment in live play to show a replay and no one outside the stadium had any idea how D.C. had managed to get the ball so deep in the Atlanta half. They also chose to cover up that bonehead error by not showing a complete replay of the scoring play. At least they didn’t sic Nico Cantor on us.
Apart from that one lucky play, D.C. did virtually nothing the rest of the game, recording a massive 5 total shots and 2 on target. Atlanta by contrast pummeled the defenseless David Ousted’s goal with 17 shots, 9 of which were on target. A 6-save performance by that worthy was inadequate to the task.
Possibly the key statistic to this game was Raccooney’s passing accuracy: he completed 15 of 21 passes (71%). To say he was ineffective is probably a compliment, and it was his giveaway that led to the first Atlanta goal. He also picked up his first MLS yellow card. He joined the league too late for All-Star Game selections, but chances are after that display he won’t want to return to Atlanta for a while.
Other than that, it was the Josef Martinez Show. Much to the chagrin of Seattle fans, that is, many of whom felt he should have been suspended (hint: he should have). However, the DisCo let him play, probably on the grounds that he is not Clint Dempsey. Josef of course did not fail to appreciate their mercy, but did fail to show that same mercy to D.C. The goal machine rolls on.
One final piece of good news: not a single Atlanta player was carded.
And so, on to this week’s Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
Man of the Match was tough. That is, I tried to think of ways not to award it to Josef and finally gave up. I’ll give a Special Mention to Andrew Carleton, not so much because he played better than anyone else, but because this:
GK: Brad Guzan – 7. D.C. had 2 shots on goal all game and Brad made 2 saves. Wait, you say, 2 shots minus 1 goal equals 1 save, right? Well, not if Brad was forced into saving a potential Michael Parkhurst own goal right before Luciano Acosta took a point blank shot. Which he also saved. So Brad, who had absolutely no chance to stop Zoltan Stieber’s goal, got a full game’s pay for precisely 2 seconds of effort.
LB: Chris McCann – 7. Oddly, McCann’s play was less aggressive than against Seattle, with his personal heatmap concentrated around the midfield stripe. He had strong passing accuracy of 89%, but attempted only 1 cross. 2 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 clearance and 3 blocks. All in all, a solid day’s work.
CB: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez – 7. By now it is reasonable to describe LGP as an elite centerback in MLS. He led all players in touches (a surprisingly low 96) and passes (86). His accuracy was off, though, and he completed no passes in the attacking third. Defensively, he tallied 4 tackles and 3 interceptions.
CB: Michael Parkhurst – 6. I’ve already noted his near own goal, and he was likely the culprit on the Stieber goal, getting caught too far upfield. An untypical game, then. Still, he had 1 tackle, 3 interceptions, 5 clearances and 1 block. However, our centerback duo were hardly taxed. Here’s their combined heatmap against D.C.’s:
When your centerbacks don’t enter the defensive third, and neither does the opponent, you’re going to have a good day.
RB: Franco Escobar –7. A much better outing for Franco than last week’s. Effectively freed of defensive responsibilities, he was able to roam far forward, and even had a shot on target in the 87th minute (a slightly cheeky backheel in a crowded 6-yard box).
LDM: Jeff Larentowicz – 7. Jeff had almost as restful an afternoon as Brad’s. Just 47 touches (including 6 tackles) hanging out in the middle third. A whopping 93% passing accuracy on 40 attempts.
RDM: Julian Gressel – 7. Julian, it seems, can play pretty much anywhere on the field. He has adjusted well to playing in the defensive midfield, and continued in that vein on Saturday. He was a little further forward than Jeff, as expected, and produced 2 key passes, the first of which in the 29th minute nearly resulted in yet another Josef Martinez goal.
LM: Andrew Carleton – 7. Making his first MLS start in place of the surprisingly omitted Ezequiel Barco, the youngster did not disappoint. He went 65 minutes, in which he had 2 shots on target and was scandalously robbed of an assist by a D.C. defender.
CAM: Miguel Almiron – 6. Miggy has been trying too hard lately. In this game he took 5 shots, 3 of which were wildly off-target. His passing accuracy was a meager 69%. However, he did have the hockey assist on the first goal. It is possible that his play was a little off in that he was adjusting to a much different midfield partner in Carleton, but this was generally not up to standard.
RM: Tito Villalba – 6. Assisted on Josef’s first goal, but otherwise was not a great deal more effective than Almiron. 2 shots from very long range, and even worse passing accuracy of 64% on just 25 passes. Taken out after 77 minutes.
FWD: Josef Martinez – 9. What? You didn’t actually expect me to give a 10, did you? He should have scored 5. Joking aside, there was very little wrong with Josef’s game on Saturday, and it is really good to see him tracking back as much as he has been doing. He now has a huge 9-goal lead in the Golden Boot race, is only 6 goals shy of the all-time MLS season record, holds the MLS career hat-trick record, and is 1 hat trick short of the single season record. He is scoring at a rate of 1.07 goals per 90 minutes and shows no sign of stopping. Oh, and Bobby Boswell thinks he is the best striker in MLS history. Exited in the 86th minute to a predictable standing ovation.
SUB: Brandon Vazquez – 7. Replaced Andrew Carleton in the 65th minute, switching youth for youth in a more or less like-for-like swap, size notwithstanding. Missed only one of his 11 passes, although these were all over the field with no real pattern to them. The game was already well in hand when he came on.
SUB: Eric Remedi – 7. Remedi’s first 23 official minutes for Atlanta were in place of Tito and with the game at 3-1 and essentially over. He looked fine, but was not exactly called on to do very much.
SUB: Kevin Kratz – 7. Came on for Josef in the 85th minute largely to allow for the appropriate cheering. Completed 7 of 7 passes.
COACH: Tata Martino – 8. Well-managed game. Made the hard choice to bench Barco and kept that carefully under wraps. Also was caught on Univision’s coach camera screaming at an unidentified player (probably Miggy) which was fun. Also gave Yamil Asad a big hug before the game.
UNIVISION DEPORTES: 5. For achieving the difficult task of making Fox Sports look good. I don’t know how, but they managed it.