Hi folks. I’m back in the saddle after a week off on vacay. Not quite as rested as Atlanta United will be, of course, who are in the middle of a 10-day break between the Portland Timbers game and the upcoming Independence Day tilt against FC Dallas.
However, knowing the Atlanta fans’ insatiable appetite for entertainment, the team decided to put on a show this weekend. Orlando City SC kindly consented to come as well, and the Pussycats showed their funny side by playing the Washington Generals to Atlanta’s Harlem Globetrotters. In this regard, special thanks are due to Will Johnson, who proved that he is just as good at comedy as he is at melodrama.
Incredibly, that show will actually count in the standings. In fact, MLS has ruled that every one of Orlando’s last 8 “games” counts, which seems brutally unfair to the other 16 teams in the league. I mean, over that stretch Orlando managed to lose to the Montreal Impact twice. By an aggregate score of 5-0. Two losses to Atlanta is understandable, but…Montreal?
Orlando’s continuing 8-game losing streak now ties for the worst in MLS this season with the Colorado Rapids and extending that to 9 looks likely with a road game against the very solid Los Angeles FC this weekend. That would also put Orlando into a tie for the third-worst losing streak in MLS history (the worst is 12 by the New York/New Jersey MetroStars in 1999).
That aside, the game was good for several things. Not least of those is of course is maintaining the Atlanta lead at the top of the conference and Supporters’ Shield standings. It was also good for the team to get its home mojo back after struggling a bit at the Benz. Third, not one Atlanta player received a card. There was in fact only one yellow card issued in the game; no prizes for guessing who got it. Finally, Atlanta showed they can manage just fine without Darlington Nagbe.
That last presents an interesting problem. Yet another champagne problem in fact, as Julian Gressel performed well in Nagbe’s regular spot. Which means Atlanta will end up with line-up decisions to make in the defensive midfield once Eric Remedi is available (he will be eligible to play for Atlanta
in the World Cup Final against the Seattle Sounders on July 15). Depth is a wonderful thing.
The game defies analysis. Orlando barely showed up to play (Justin Meram didn’t show up at all, probably wisely). However, despite accumulating a mere 38.8% possession, mostly in the second half after the game was already out of reach (if it ever was within reach for them), they still managed 12 shots and 4 on goal. Opta also credits Orlando with 81% passing accuracy. I find that very hard to believe, as it seemed that almost every ball ended up at the feet of a United player. The game was total domination whistle to whistle, and that’s all she wrote.
So without further ado, here are the Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
Man of the Match goes to the age-defying Jeff Larentowicz, who spent the evening dispossessing and otherwise embarrassing players ten years or more his junior. Special Mentions go to Miguel Almiron for his brace and to Mikey Ambrose for his industriousness and…preparedness.
GK: Brad Guzan – 7. A 3-save performance from Brad, who also had to be bailed out by an alert Ambrose and was spared by Will Johnson’s boneheaded failure to realize that all he had to do was stand still and let the ball bounce off him to score. Also had a punched clearance attempt that completely missed. Otherwise untested.
LB: Mikey Ambrose – 8. Since there are no Boy Scouts anymore, does that mean Mikey is The Last Boy Scout? Goal-line heroics and excellent attacking play, including an assist on the final goal. Making a very strong case to be the first choice replacement for Greg Garza.
CB: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez – 8. LGP had so little defensive work to do his personal heatmap centers just off the center circle. He even had an attempt on goal from just 8 yards out.
CB: Michael Parkhurst – 7. Equally as unchallenged as LGP, Parky had a relatively quiet evening of it, roaming all over the place and doing pretty much whatever he felt like doing. 97 touches and 86 passes on the night.
RB: Franco Escobar –8. Led the team in touches (105!) and passes (89). Played probably his best game in a Five Stripes shirt and was utilized in a true pressing fullback role. Also led the team in blocks with 4.
LDM: Jeff Larentowicz – 9. Larry was, quite simply, the man. On top of making Orlando players look atrociously bad all night he created the play that ended up with Miggy’s first goal, shaking off at least two attempted challenges.
RDM: Julian Gressel – 8. Solid in defense, assisted on Josef’s goal. Julian is officially the jack of all trades and seems able to perform well wherever he is stationed on the field.
LM: Ezequiel Barco – 8. Still holding on to the ball a tad too long perhaps, but why not when you are playing Orlando? Especially if you can do this:
Let’s not forget his goal. of course. His 4th in MLS and 5th overall this season. Subbed out after 79 minutes.
CAM: Miguel Almiron – 9. This is the Miggy we all know and love. Running all the field at a blinding pace, leaving defenders in the dust (well, rubber pellets). Oh, and scoring twice in one game. That was his 6th multi-goal game for Atlanta. Given the standing O after 86 minutes.
RM: Tito Villalba – 6. Got the hockey assist on Miggy’s first goal, but this was not a classic lion tamer performance. He had a couple of poor giveaways in the first half and looked less than sharp. Taken out in the 64th minute.
FWD: Josef Martinez – 8. Put the game away after 172 seconds. It was all downhill for Orlando after that. Josef also put in some decent defensive work and chalked up a rare assist (only his second for Atlanta in 37 games). With Bradley Wright-Phillips not scoring against Toronto FC om Sunday, his Golden Boot lead is now 4.
SUB: Kevin Kratz – 7. Replaced Tito with the game long since secure. Didn’t have much to do.
SUB: Andrew Carleton – 7. Subbed in for Barco and got 11 official minutes. Played well but scandalously failed to score against the hapless Orlando defense.
SUB: Romario Williams – 7. Replaced Miggy late. Looked good as ever but was hardly taxed.
COACH: Tata Martino – 8. Somehow I doubt this game was too difficult for the maestro to figure out.
FASHION SENSE: Bobby Murphy – -10. Sweatpants about 3 inches too short and a sweater vest are not a good look. Or was this disaster intended as a metaphor for Orlando’s season?
LIFE CHOICES: James O’Connor – 0. Taking a new job because you won’t have to buy a new wardrobe and the employer matches your own initials is not a good decision.