Stand aside gracefully, Roy Lassiter. Get out of here with all your point-blank misses, Chris Wondolowski. And shut up with your pre-planned 100-goal shirt, Bradley Wright-Phillips. Your triumvirate has been overthrown.
Yes, in case you hadn’t heard yet, Josef Martinez is now the single-season goal-scoring king/emperor/master of the universe. It would of course have been glorious if he had achieved the mark at home last week, and he almost did. And it would have been Schadenfreude in the extreme if he had done it in the first half in front of Orlando City’s safe-standing area (it’s not a wall. Walls go straight up and are flat. This is just a very wide staircase with fences). However, it was just perfect that Orlando City was the victim and that Josef was able to celebrate in front of the traveling Atlanta United fans who were given one more reason to gloat. As if they really needed it.
The game was more or less a foregone conclusion. Since week 10, when Atlanta broke their much vaunted 6-game win streak, Orlando have undergone a collapse of epic proportions. Take a look at the league form guide:
In its last 16 games Orlando has picked up just 4 points. Out of 48. That’s by far the worst in the league over that stretch. It includes a 9-game losing streak, which even the woeful Colorado Rapids, the pathetic Chicago Fire and the execrable San Jose Earthquakes were not able to achieve. Their only win in that time was against Toronto FC, who have had their own problems but are heading in the opposite direction. And to top it all off, the Seattle Sounders’ win Sunday evening pushed their win streak aside as the league’s best this season. They’re so bad, they even lose when they aren’t playing.
A picture is worth a thousand words. This one sums up Orlando’s season rather nicely:
All that being said, Orlando really didn’t play all that badly, considering that they are a weak team at full strength and this was definitely a below-strength squad, missing Sacha Kljestan, Cristian Higuita and Yoshimar Yotun. They even caught Atlanta napping (probably literally) just before half-time when right back Scott Sutter blasted one past Brad Guzan from long range. It justifiably got a Goal of the Week nomination. Excuse me, a consolation Goal of the Week nomination.
Other than that, and a couple of nifty saves from Brad, it was complete and utter domination. At times it looked like the team had decided to go to the local park and butt in on a pick-up game. Check the average player positions:
Confusingly, Orlando is in orange and Atlanta is in blue. Once you get that sorted out, you can see how little defensive effort was needed on Atlanta’s part, and how Orlando played behind the ball virtually the entire game.
Well, at least the Orlando players and their fans can take comfort from the fact that in their twilight years they can sit by the roaring
fire dehumidifer with their grandkids and tell them they were there when...
With joy in our hearts, we move on to the Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
Man of the Match yet again is Josef Martinez. Not that he had a particularly outstanding game by his standards (which are admittedly high), but how can you ignore such an historic moment? Special Mentions go to Leandro Gonzalez Pirez for an all-round great performance and to Julian Gressel who continues his peregrinations around the formation to great effect.
GK: Brad Guzan – 7. Officially 3 saves on the night, although one of them was a routine collection of a completely nondangerous ball. The other two were golden, though, and were very similar high one-handed reaches for balls coming in hot from the right. and there was little he could do to stop Zardes’ rocket, although he came close. Came close to Sutter’s shot despite being unsighted on the play.
LB: Chris McCann – 7. A decent but not spectacular game from Chris. Defensively, 1 interception, 3 clearances and 1 block. Offensively, Atlanta’s game was heavily tilted to the right for once and he was not greatly involved.
CB: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez – 9. LGP led all players on the Audi Index with a hefty 1,077 rating. When a centerback gets 2 shots (technically 3 if you count the goal as 2 attempts) on goal and scores a goal, that can happen. 1 tackle, 3 interceptions, 4 clearances and 1 block. Basically had his MOTM win stolen by Josef.
CB: Michael Parkhurst – 7. Solid as ever. 1 tackle, 5 clearances, 1 block. Not exactly a strenuous evening for Parky, but effective nonetheless.
RB: Julian Gressel – 8. A surprise start at right back in place of Franco Escobar, but he was in this game to all intents and purposes a wingback. He did mar his performance with a sloppy clearance that led to Sutter’s goal, but otherwise was excellent. 5 tackles, 4 interceptions, 1 clearance and 1 block. He led all players with 95 touches and 84 passes (with an impressive 91.3% accuracy; not the best on the team but consider the volume). And to emphasize how slanted the game was to his side here’s the heatmap for him and McCann:
Julian is at the top.
And of course, he provided The Assist.
DM: Jeff Larentowicz – 7. Parked himself right on the center spot and basically passed the ball around at will. Got a typical long-range shot off, which Joe Bendik actually held on to. Also 5 tackles, 1 interception, 1 clearance and 1 block.
DM: Eric Remedi – 7. Eric is continuing his integration into the team. Second on the night with 71 passes at 94.4% accuracy. Also had 4 tackles.
LM: Ezequiel Barco – 7. A return to the starting XI, and a good game all round. Should have had the assist on LGP’s goal if not for Bendik fumbling it not once but twice. However, he has a tendency to move centrally into Miggy’s space (in the player positions chart above he is in fact hidden under Miggy’s #10). Is he perhaps more suited that same central role?
CAM: Miguel Almiron – 8. I think Miggy has officially shaken off the yips, with two good showings in a row. He’s clearly enjoying himself again and generally made the Orlando defenders look immobile. Also, his crafty run drawing Oriol Rosell away from Josef was critical to the game-winning and record-setting goal.
RM: Tito Villalba – 6. Not a very effective game for Tito, who was in fact overshadowed on the right wing by Gressel. He had just 55 touches and 31 passes in the game.
FWD: Josef Martinez – 9. Two records set (most goals in a season and longest road scoring streak) and one tied (longest overall scoring streak). Is that a record in and of itself? He came within an inch or two of heading the free kick that LGP scored on and racked up a total of 5 shots. He loses a half point for getting a yellow but gets it back for doing this at the same time:
By the way, officially the yellow was not for removing his shirt (which is should have been) but for delaying the restart. That’s as dumb as the shirt-removal rule, because the Laws specifically state that goal celebrations are permitted as long as they not excessive. Under the circumstances a little extra time was justifiable.
SUB: Miles Robinson – 6. Replaced Tito after 83 minutes. A defensive sub, obviously. Which raise the question: why? Defense was not exactly a high priority on Friday. Miles touched the ball 6 times. All 6 touches were passes, and none were in the defensive third.
SUB: Romario Williams – 6. Replaced Josef in stoppage time to allow the fans to give him the standing O. Touched the ball 3 times, all close to the right corner to kill off time.
SUB: Kevin Kratz – 5. Came on for Barco in stoppage time along with Romario. 3 touches: one free kick (of course), one failed tackle and one pass.
COACH: Tata Martino – 8. Not the most taxing game of Tata's coaching career, to be sure.
ORLANDO CITY FANS: 8. Sorry. You keep showing up even though your team doesn’t. But a tifo suggesting the players should fight or die might not have been the best choice under the circumstances.