FC Dallas are MLS’ reigning kings of bunkering. High-scoring games are not their specialty. Atlanta United, by contrast, are the masters of high-energy, attack-laden soccer. Wednesday night, one of those was going to break. In the end, it seems both did.
Prior to the game, Dallas was averaging 1.63 goals scored and 1.06 goals allowed per game. 3-2 is just short of double both those numbers (although they have produced that scoreline twice already this season, both times against the LA Galaxy). Dallas’ goal difference over the previous 16 games was a measly 8, just 0.5 goals per game. 7 of the team’s 10 wins have been by a 1-goal margin. They average only 48.3% possession, good for just 14th in the league and below the league average of 49.9%. And yet they sit atop the Western Conference, and have the best PPG in the league.
Here’s a telling stat though: Dallas puts up 14.3 shots per game and 5.8 shots on goal per game. Atlanta, with 52.9% possession (3rd best in the league) gets 14.3 and 5.6 respectively. Virtually no difference. Clearly, FCD makes the most of the chances it gets.
How did all this translate to Wednesday’s game? Consider the summary stat sheet:
Other than possession, which was more skewed than either team’s normal performance, and the associated passing and crossing numbers, there’s very little difference between the two teams.
So what happened? Well, in a word, errors. This has been thoroughly analyzed by our own Josh Bagriansky. For 83 minutes both teams played their typical game and then Atlanta decided to channel its inner Dallas and switched to a defensive mode. that, plus the heat, excessive confidence, poor substitutions, mental lapses, whatever it may be, changed everything for Atlanta. Dallas changed too, seizing the opportunity and finishing the game in unexpected style.
So, Atlanta is 0-2-0 in Texas this season. That should be the last visit there, the only remaining possibility being the MLS Cup game if Dallas makes it that far with a better points total. That game will be played December 8, so it will feel like they turned the air conditioning on and everything will be fine. Meanwhile, on to Philadelphia and a 15-game remaining schedule that includes only 4 games against teams currently in playoff position. Those are the Columbus Crew, New York Red Bulls, the New England Revolution and the Chicago Fire. Of those, only the New York game is on the road, and the Red Bulls just let their crafty head coach go.
And now for the main event, the Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
Man of the Match is a no-brainer. Josef Martinez added to his already overflowing goal account with an excellent brace and did much else besides. Special Mention goes to Tito Villalba for his spectacular destruction of Maynor Figueroa assisting on Josef’s first goal.
GK: Brad Guzan – 6. 3 saves would normally be worth a better score than this, and generally you don’t blame the keeper too much for goals allowed. But this was a sub-par performance from Brad, as it was for the entire defense.
LB: Mikey Ambrose – 6. Put in some good attacking work, but was not particularly strong on the defensive side of the ball. Less to blame for the goals than the rest of the back line though.
CB: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez – 6. Covered the left side of the defense pretty well, but was unable to do anything material to prevent the two late goals.
CB: Michael Parkhurst – 5. Maybe Parky’s worst evening for the Five Stripes. Or worst 7 minutes at least. Out of position on Akindele’s first goal, although he was drawn off by Escobar’s bone-headed mistake. Taken out in the 89th minute in an all-out move to grab a point back.
RB: Franco Escobar –3.5. A truly horrendous night for Franco. The yellow card notwithstanding (Atlanta’s only card in the last two games), he was badly out of position for the equalizer when a defensive shift had clearly been called for.
LDM: Jeff Larentowicz – 7. Not the commanding display we saw against Orlando over the weekend, but still a good outing. One more game and then Remedi arrives, giving him a well-earned rest or at least some solid support in the defensive midfield. That’s needed, because…
RDM: Julian Gressel – 7. Played very high considering his position in the formation, mostly in zone 15. Provided the secondary assist on Josef’s second goal. At this point it is probably fair to say that Julian is most flexible player on the squad.
LM: Ezequiel Barco – 6. Barco seems to alternate good games with not-so-good games. This was one of the latter, and he looked very tired when taken off in the 83rd minute.
CAM: Miguel Almiron – 7. Miggy layed almost the entire game in the attacking half, unusual for him but probably wise not to overdo it in the intense Frisco heat. Gave the very pretty assist on Josef’s second goal.
RM: Tito Villalba – 7. Left early in the 69th minute with what looked like an upper leg injury, possibly a hamstring. I blame the k-tape. Up to that point Tito had been an attacking engine, and, as noted above, completely embarrassed his defender to notch the assist.
FWD: Josef Martinez – 9. Oh, weren’t we all hoping for that third goal and the MLS hat trick record? Alas, ‘twas not to be. Easily the best player on the team, and even put in some sterling defensive work. He did his job, but got let down by most of the rest of the team.
SUB: Kevin Kratz – 5. Replaced Tito and was ultimately partly to blame for the second Dallas goal.
SUB: Miles Robinson – 4. Brought in for Barco in a switch to a 5-man back line in order to park the bus and close the game out. Looked out of sorts and out of practice. Tough to blame the youngster for the outcome, but he was a big part of the problem. He’ll need to forget this one fast.
SUB: Romario Williams – 5. Tata went full YOLO late, but Romario was unable to get anything done.
COACH: Tata Martino – 6. Despite the performances on the field, you have to lay some blame at the feet of the coach for the late errors. Were his instructions clear enough when switching to 5 at the back?
FIREWORKS: 5. This one ended up a dud. Or with a glorious 1812 Overture cannon shot finish. Depends on your perspective