Perhaps the best thing about being scheduled on a Friday evening at the start of a holiday weekend is that you can forget what happened.
Not that there was anything memorable about the game anyway. As if being forced to listen to Nico Cantor and Ramses Sandoval for 90 minutes wasn’t enough to drive you to drink yourself into catatonia, the game itself was, let’s face it, a total snoozefest. About the most interesting thing that happened was Josef Martinez ripping his shirt in a a very Old Testament commentary on the game.
Neither team seemed particularly motivated to do much. Possession split 49.8%-50.2%. Real Salt Lake totaled 412 passes, Atlanta 418, both for 81% accuracy. Mirror images up and down the entire stat sheet. Even the final scoreline would have been square if Atlanta had not succumbed to the boredom 48 seconds earlier than they should have.
Granted, the team that Frank de Boer took to Utah was depleted by fatigue (thanks, MLS schedulers), injuries (thanks, Kemar Lawrence) and an international absence (thanks, FIFA), but that does not truly excuse a truly sub-par performance.
If there is one stat to point to in this ignominious defeat, it would have to be passing accuracy in the final third. Both teams had 108 passes in that area, but RSL had 68% accuracy compared to United’s 59%. That’s not a low for the season, but it’s very close (the New England Revolution game had just 81 passes for 58%). For a team that has struggled to make an impact in that critical segment of the field all year, that kind of inefficiency is deadly.
Not that the home team were much better in that regard, and both of their goals were from extreme range. Precisely the kind of goal that none of the 12% Stripes* have been scoring this season, with the exception of Ezequiel Barco, who had to go and remind us of that painful fact on Saturday.
The good news on the Barco front is that regardless of how well Argentina perform in the U-20 World Cup, he will only miss 2 more games. After Saturday’s game against the Chicago Fire, Atlanta does not play again until June 26 in Toronto. The U-20 World Cup Final is June 15.
The only other positive I can find in Friday night’s Ambien replacement is that Atlanta did not lose much ground in the standings. The team dropped to 5th in the table, but remains 4th in PPG, and only lost 1 point on Conference leaders DC United, and still has 1 or 2 games in hand on every team ahead of it.
That’s about as much as I can draw from the tedium that transpired Friday, so on to the Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
Men of the Match is Josef Martinez, who scored a quintessentially Josef goal, and showed some emotion post-game. No Special mentions for anyone, for the second straight game, and frankly, that’s not good.
GK: Brad Guzan – 6. Brad had 3 saves in the game, and had really no chance on either of the goals.
LB: Brek Shea – 5. Brek played 58 minutes and managed 2 tackles and 3 clearances in that time. Offensively he did absolutely nothing, generating just 19 passes with a lowly 68.4% completion rate, including just 1 attempted cross.
CB: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez – 5. 2 tackles, 2 interceptions and 1 clearance. A fairly decent output, but he just didn’t look sharp.
CB: Miles Robinson – 6. 3 tackles and 4 clearances, and led the team in passing with 61 for 88.5% accuracy. A good chunk of the successful passes were vertical, too, and several at long-range. Not exactly a game to highlight his All-Star snub, but not too bad either.
RB: Michael Parkhurst – 4.5. 2 tackles, 5 clearances, 2 blocks and a yellow card. Just 39 passes, and he was clearly in no condition to be playing a fullback role, not that there was much choice. He went the full 90, and probably shouldn’t have.
LDM: Eric Remedi – 4. Just 1 tackle and 1 block defensively, and 39 passes for 71.8% accuracy. Not what you need from a holding mid, and...
RDM: Jeff Larentowicz – 4. ...Jeff wasn’t much better. Played 58 minutes, and racked up 1 tackle, 1 interception and 1 block, along with just 22 passes, almost all of which were in the defensive half.
LM: Dion Pereira – 5. His first start for Atlanta, pulled into service to replace the banged-up Tito Villalba and also to give Pity Martinez a rest, the young Englishman did not perform as he has off the bench. Exited in the 78th minute.
CAM: Darlington Nagbe – 5. It says much about this game that Darlington was pretty much invisible. He had just 30 passes. True, that was with 96.7% accuracy, but still that’s way lower than his standard.
RM: Julian Gressel – 4. 2 shots, 1 on target. And a measly 29 passes with just 65.5% accuracy (lowest among all Atlanta starters). Julian has not been himself lately.
FWD: Josef Martinez – 6. 2 shots, 1 on target and in the net. On most days that would be good. But nothing in this game felt good.
SUB: Franco Escobar – 6. Replaced Shea, and got the assist on the goal. And a very nice assist it was too.
SUB: Pity Martinez – 5. Well, technically, Pity now has his first MLS assist, although he has to be content with the hockey version.
SUB: Justin Meram – 5. Played 12 official minutes, and had no impact on the game at all.
COACH: Frank de Boer – 5. A game plan and lineup more or less forced by circumstances, but it still wasn’t good. He and the team need to bounce back fast.
MAN CITY CUP - 7. Kudos to the Atlanta United U-14s in their victory. But has anyone else thought how arrogant it is for a professional team to name a competition after itself?
* That’s Atlanta’s current probability to win MLS Cup per fivethirtyeight.com.