OK. I’m going to start with the heatmap:
This time, I intentionally removed the team labels. Given that the visitors walked away with an easy 3-0 win, which side do you think Atlanta occupies on this chart?
Atlanta’s 3 goals all came from the left side of the Colorado box and 2 of those were supplied by pinpoint crosses from Julian Gressel on the right. And the lack of any scoring competence on Colorado’s part tends to suggest an easy time in the Atlanta box too. And then there’s that tell-tale red spot in the goal on the right. So the obvious choice would be that Atlanta is on the left, right?
Wrong. Colorado is in fact the team on the left. Amazingly, Atlanta were outshot by Colorado 18-8 in this game. However, 10 of those shots were from outside the penalty area and only 3 were on target. And none of those exactly tested Brad Guzan. Of Atlanta’s 8 shots, 6 were on target. Atlanta only tried 3 shots after the third goal (which could easily have been the fifth). Both misses came in the second half, and one of those was Jeff Larentowicz’s long-range boot off a free kick.
Which is to say, the Five Stripes were the epitome of Southern gentlemen. Good guests do not embarrass their hosts, after all. Nor would it have been a good idea to exhaust themselves in the thin air and scorching heat with two more games in the next seven days coming up. As a result, the game degenerated into a mere kick-around after 37 minutes and the game no longer in doubt.
Saturday also saw the return of the 3-5-2. This time it was not out of necessity but rather an intentional and moderately experimental choice. Tata’s answer to the question as to who would sit in midfield when Nagbe returned was: no one. Opting to cover Colorado’s powerful two-man front of Giles Barnes and Sam Nicholson with 3 centerbacks was the soccer definition of overkill. It allowed for the opportunity to see how Darlington Nagbe and Eric Remedi would mesh, since they had never played together. Conclusion: not bad at all. It also freed up Gressel to return to his primary role of being completely ignored on the right wing.
Other than that, the only interesting things to note about this game is that Josef Martinez’s scoreless streak now stands at 106 minutes, by far his longest drought of the season and that Colorado’s scoreless streak stands at 368 minutes. That latter streak, by the way, is nowhere near the record: that belongs to Toronto FC who racked up two long droughts in their inaugural season in 2007. That expansion team went 384 minutes before scoring its first ever goal (compare that to the 25 minutes we had to wait for Yamil Asad’s history-maker). That was impressive but far short of the existing record of 557 minutes, so Toronto followed it up with a staggering 824 minutes of futility, being shut out in 9 straight games.
My conclusion from this game: soccer is one of the things Denverites do when they’re dead.
So, with very little to work with, on to the Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
Man of the Match is Miguel Almiron. Being involved in all 3 goals will get you there fairly easily. Special Mention goes to Julian Gressel whose invisibility on the wing was used to devastating effect.
GK: Brad Guzan – 7. With 3 CBs in front of him and no strikers to speak of attacking them, anything other than a clean sheet would have been unacceptable. 3 more or less routine saves. The big question: what SPF factor does he use on his head?
CB: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez – 7. LGP was third on the team in touches, with an underwhelming 57. 4 tackles, 1 clearance, 1 block. And a perfectly good goal disallowed. Not a bad afternoon really.
CB: Michael Parkhurst – 6. Parky had just 1 defensive action all game: a clearance from well outside the 18. He looked like the heat was getting to him at times; his head was noticeably down on occasion.
CB: Jeff Larentowicz – 7. Led the team in touches (78) and passes (66). 1 tackle, 1 interception, 1 clearance and 3 blocks. And a very hoipeful mand far off-the-mark shot. In other words, a typical Jeff performance.
LW: Chris McCann – 6. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I’m going to give you 2,000 words worth. Here’s the heatmap for McCann and Gressel:
Gressel is at the top.
And the comparative passing map:
DM: Eric Remedi – 7. Eric was credited with the hockey assist on Miggy’s second goal, which was a tackle and key pass all in one. A very nice play. Spent the afternoon wandering around the middle third in a most effective fashion.
RM: Darlington Nagbe – 8. He’s baack! And not only was he back, but he was good for a 77 minute start. This was a perfect time for his return; a low-risk game to test both his fitness and his connection with Remedi. And they looked good. Bonus: he had 100% passing accuracy on 33 attempts.
RW: Julian Gressel – 9. Probably Julian’s best game yet. On the first goal, he was so open he was able to call for the ball way ahead of the play. On the third goal, even Nico Cantor was able to predict the score as Gressel got control. He’s so open most of the time, it’s as if he has a cloak of invisibility. Who’d he steal it from: Bilbo or Harry?
CAM: Miguel Almiron – 9. The good news: the Miggy we all know and love has definitely found his mojo again. The bad news: scouts are going to be taking even more notice. Should have had a hat-trick though: a shot in the fourth minute was inexplicably saved. Left the game after 86 minutes.
FWD: Josef Martinez – 7. An observer without the benefit of a lineup sheet would be forgiven for thinking that Josef was playing in the #10 slot, not Miggy. He seemed very happy to take the supporting role in this game, and got the assist on the second goal for his trouble. For all his ridiculous scoring stats, he is a very unselfish player.
FWD: Tito Villalba – 8. Tito back into form. Just 69 minutes (he always seems to be the first subbed out), but he got one goal and should have had another. His role as second striker seemed to suit him well.
SUB: Ezequiel Barco – 7. Replaced Tito. I’m tempted to give all three subs an N/R rating, because they didn’t exactly have to do very much. They came on, kicked the ball around, closed the game out. Barco looked just fine with that.
SUB: Kevin Kratz – 7. Came on for Nagbe after 77 minutes. Took one good shot from distance, otherwise unchallenged.
SUB: Andrew Carleton – 6. 4 official minutes, 10 actual. Had 4 touches. Playing time is playing time, I guess.
COACH: Tata Martino – 8. Took the opportunity to experiment and it went just as planned. On to the next game with points in the bag.
NEW MATH: -14,788. Yeah, right.