I blame Romario Williams. In the first 56 minutes he had failed to finish any of his 4 shots. Then, in the 79th minute he falls onto a ball that ends up in the net, thereby condemning us all to an additional 30 minutes of torture.
Yes, this Open Cup game played in front of the smallest crowd in Atlanta United history will not be going down as a classic. It was largely tedious, and at times embarrassing to watch.
That being said, this was not Atlanta’s A team, which should under any circumstances be able to handle a USL team with relative ease. Moreover, it was a team that had spent a large fraction of the preceding three days on a bus, thanks to the miserable condition of the playing surface at Charleston’s MUSC Health Stadium.
That field, by the way, had been in poor condition for the Battery’s game against the Birmingham Legion the Saturday before and it had rained heavily before that game and the field got progressively more chewed up during the game. Being an Alabamian I suffered through that game too, and by about half time I was convinced that it would not be playable come Tuesday. Thus the game was shifted to Kennesaw and closed doors.
Anyway, the 120 Stripes predictably, and to some extent necessarily, fielded a B+ side for this game. The quality of play was therefore not too surprising. Even so, Atlanta should never have gone down a goal, nor should they have struggled to get the equalizer. The Battery goal in the 20th minute was due to a combination of errors and a golazo effort by Ian Svantesson. The errors on Atlanta’s part were a poor choice of distribution by Alec Kann, who should have seen that Franco Escobar was potentially covered up, and a bonehead decision by Franco to let the ball roll through his legs to pick it up on the turn when A.J. Paterson was bearing down on him.
That it took Atlanta another 59 minutes to level the score was ridiculous. It was also the result of yet another goalkeeper standing on his head against them. When the game was finally, mercifully over, Atlanta had racked up a monumental 34 shots and 12 on target. Battery keeper Phil Breno put in a 10-save performance (including one to stop an own goal), limiting United to 3 late goals.
The other stats for the game were also absurd. Atlanta had 70.1% possession, attempted 805 passes with 88% accuracy. Of those, 605 were in the attacking half; that’s just 75%. 324 passes were in the final third with 81% accuracy. They even tallied 51 crosses with 31% accuracy. In some ways this was ironic – Atlanta under Frank de Boer has a tendency to sit on a small lead and bunker hard. The Battery tried to hoist them with their own petard, and it almost worked.
They got unlucky. The Atlanta equalizer came on a corner, which, as we all know, never happens. Breno followed Pity Martinez’ service out beyond the far post only to have Miles Robinson use his height to nod the ball over him and drop it onto Romario Williams’ sliding foot at the goal line. An ugly goal fitting for an ugly game. From that point, it became an endurance contest, with the home-but-technically-away team finally breaking the deadlock in extra time.
In the end, Atlanta earned itself another road trip to a team in yellow and black, heading to Columbus to face the Crew Tuesday night. And we all know what happened last time they went to central Ohio. Guess what Tuesday’s forecast for Columbus is. Yes, that’s right, 80% chance of thunderstorms all day. And Wednesday’s forecast isn’t much better. Chances of Atlanta refusing to play in a kiddie pool again? Probably about 100%.
Personally, I’m hoping the game does get played Tuesday, as Wednesday evening I will be on a plane to London and out of ESPN+’s coverage area. From there I will hop over to Paris for a few days to do a DSS exclusive on the Women’s World Cup, for which I will mysteriously fail to file a report.
In the meantime, here are the Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
Man of the Match was Miles Robinson for yet another solid defensive outing and also for chalking up a key assist. Special Mention goes to Brandon Vazquez, who always seems to step up in the Open Cup.
GK: Alec Kann – 6. Alec got his first start for the first team this year and despite making 3 saves was not really impressive. As noted above, he was at least partially responsible for the Charleston goal.
LB: Brek Shea – 7. Brek had one of his better games this season. Defensively, he had 1 tackle, 2 clearances and 11 recoveries. Offensively, he was effective, pushing well up into the Battery half and connecting well on his passing, and taking 3 shots (1 on frame).
CB: Florentin Pogba – 6. Playing for LGP, Brogba was not heavily challenged but also was not great. 1 tackle, 1 block, 4 clearances and 5 recoveries. He did get 3 shots in, though, with 1 on target. Left the game after 59 minutes in a moderately offensive shift.
CB: Miles Robinson – 8. 1 tackle, 4 clearances and 14 recoveries. 4 shots, none on target. And the assist, of course. Frankly, we are lucky that Gregg Berhalter appears to be very bad at squad selection.
RB: Franco Escobar – 5. Almost certainly his worst performance for Atlanta. Apart from the laughable giveaway on the goal, he had just 1 tackle and 3 recoveries. His passing on the wing was also relatively thin, as Atlanta clearly favored attack on the left. 1 off-target shot. Pulled after 105 minutes.
LDM: Darlington Nagbe – 6. Darlington was fairly invisible in this game. That is likely because, as usual, he focused his efforts on the middle third of the field. With Atlanta so heavily into the final third, he was kind of left behind.
RDM: Jeff Larentowicz – 5.5. Hampered himself with a fully deserved yellow card in the 17th minute. Like Darlington, spent most of his time in the middle third.
LM: Dion Pereira – 6. Did virtually nothing in this game, despite play being concentrated on his side. Left in the double switch in the 59th minute.
CAM: Andrew Carleton – 6. At this point it beginning to be clear that Andrew is still mostly an ATLUTD2 player, and seriously needs to step it up to get to the next level. Given that he is playing for FdB, who is getting so much out of other young talent, this is not good. Yanked in the 74th minute in a game-changing move.
RM: Pity Martinez – 6.5. Pity went the full 120, which is about 2 games by his usual standard. He got a yellow card and his passing was just, well, average. He did get another hockey assist, however, and had 6 shots on goal with 3 on target.
FWD: Romario Williams – 6.5. His game-tying goal rather saves his rating here. Otherwise, he was uninspiring. 6 shots, with 3 on goal, but mostly poor chances. And picked up a late yellow card. IN his defense, he was probably confused by being able to easily hear Charleston coach Michael Anhaueser yelling constantly at Romario Piggott.
SUB: Justin Meram – 7. Replaced Pereira and made a significant impact, providing the assist on both of Vazquez’ goals. Also got in 3 shots, all off-target, including a near-certain headed chance that he managed to bounce right over the goal.
SUB: Eric Remedi – 7. Replaced Pogba and immediately went to work as a central mid, pushing play even further upfield. Also got in 1 block and 7 recoveries.
SUB: Brandon Vazquez – 8. Brandon needs to be called Mr. Open Cup. He now has 4 goals in 5 Open Cup appearances. All the others were starts, and he probably should have started this one too over Carleton.
SUB: Michael Parkhurst – 6. Played the second half of extra time and didn’t have much to do. Just 1 clearance in the game.
COACH: Frank de Boer – 6. Granted, he managed this game under some weird circumstances, and his game plan was likely poorly executed by a cobbled-together lineup, but should not have had so much trouble winning this one.
MATT MOORE – 10. Moore, who is Director of ATLUTD Digital, was the stadium announcer. His Goooaaalll calls to empty seats were comedy gold.