I go swimming, swimming in the water
Swimming in the pool, swimming is cool
I go swimming
Did they forget to install a drainage system when they built MAPFRE Stadium? And does Atlanta United need to invest in fishing waders as standard equipment to play there?
Or maybe Hans Brinker’s descendants have an ongoing feud with Frank de Boer.
Whatever. As predicted, weather conditions were bad once again in Columbus but at least the field was, for the most part, playable, although Brad Guzan might disagree. This time, the Striped Bass were ready for it. They entered the game with as nearly a first XI lineup as international callups and Open Cup roster rules would allow, whereas the Columbus Crew fielded a relatively weak side. Most notably, Gyasi Zardes was with the US Gold Cup team standing idly in the box and putting his face in the way of a clearance of a Paul Arriola rocket rather than one from David Accam. If he had been doing his goalpost imitation in Columbus things might have ended differently.
But he wasn’t, and the good guys won this time. Call it a measure of revenge. Atlanta advances to the quarterfinals for the first time in club history. Also, the team has now won two straight games in which it has conceded at least 1 goal, including a come from behind win against Charleston, a feat it has yet to accomplish in MLS play this season. That’s a major positive.
That de Boer fielded a strong team is an indication that he is taking the Open Cup seriously. We discussed this point in the DSS Slack channel during the game. Knockout cup tournaments have a long history in Europe and for the most part carry a meaningful level of prestige. This is certainly true of the English FA Cup, as well as the Spanish Copa del Rey. The Dutch version, the KNVB Beker, has existed since 1898. Importantly for de Boer, it has been won by Ajax 19 times (they are the reigning champions).
Moreover, it is the quickest route to the CCL, which he must want a crack at with a team he has had a chance to develop. Beyond that, MLS has ditched the home-and-away format for the playoffs, and the Open Cup represents good preparation for that.
As for the game itself, it was probably a little closer than it should have been. Statistically, it was pretty close, but Atlanta took an early 2-goal lead and retreated into a moderately defensive posture, as they typically have done this season. Much of the Atlanta attack after that was of the opportunistic counter-attacking variety. This was especially true in the last 20 minutes when United were defending a slim 1-goal advantage. Columbus had 61.3% possession during that stretch as compared with 49.3% for the overall game, and put up 5 of their 13 shots in that period. Atlanta had just 3 shots to close the game out, although 2 of those were very good scoring chances (by Ezequiel Barco and Brek Shea).
Both teams had put up 8 shots prior to that, although Atlanta’s were generally of shorter range and therefore better scoring opportunities. They also had a slight edge in shots on target, with 6 to 5.
Overall, it was a good showing, and infinitely more enjoyable to watch than last week’s misery. Even though the crowd was about the same size. Next up is the quarter-final, which will be a home game on July 10th. Which also means we are back to crowded schedules again. In the 32 days between June 26th and July 27th Atlanta will play 9 games.
Well, my bags are packed and I’m outta here tonight (Wednesday) on vacation. So here are my last (for a while) Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
Man of the Match was Brandon Vazquez for his second straight two-goal game. No real surprise there. Special Mention goes to Ezequiel Barco on his return to Atlanta for being the spark we were missing and to Miles Robinson for, well, for being himself.
GK: Brad Guzan – 7. Brad was credited with an own goal on Columbus’ second score, but frankly that was uncharitable. The conditions were hardly in his favor, including the gallon of water he had to wring out of his gloves. Otherwise, 4 saves and a good evening.
LB: Michael Parkhurst – 7. A fairly creditable evening’s work for Parky. 1 tackle, 2 interceptions, 5 clearances and 5 recoveries. Oh, and a way off-target long-range shot in second half stoppage time that even he had to laugh at. On the other hand, his passing was pretty poor.
CB: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez – 6.5. Picked up a yellow for a fairly rough challenge, but got in the face of several Crew players during the course of the game and pretty much bossed them all night. 1 block, 2 interceptions, 3 clearances and 7 recoveries. Aso got a shot on target.
CB: Miles Robinson – 8. 1 tackle, 2 blocks, 2 interceptions, 6 clearances and 8 recoveries. Pretty solid passing too, and of course a goal. He and Vazquez are forming quite the youth movement in FdB’s plan.
RB: Franco Escobar – 7. 3 tackles, 3 clearances and 8 recoveries. Better passing than Parky on the other side.
LDM: Eric Remedi – 6. Not an overly active game for Eric. He kept to the middle third as usual, but didn’t rack up quite the level of passing that he normally does. However, he only missed 4 of 42 passes all night (90.5%).
RDM: Darlington Nagbe – 6. About the same can be said for Darlington as for Eric. Only 41 passes, way under par, but 92.7% accuracy.
LM: Justin Meram – 5.5. Played 69 minutes in front of his old home crowd, if you can call it a crowd. 1 off-target shot, but otherwise barely got into the final third, making only 6 passes in that segment. Also picked up a yellow card.
CAM: Ezequiel Barco – 7. Just the one late shot on a solo breakaway, and really should have finished it. Only 34 passes for 85.3% accuracy, but he was all over the field and was clearly in a mood to make his presence felt. Got a stoppage time yellow card for time wasting, so, good job.
RM: Pity Martinez – 6. 2 shots, both from distance, but 1 was on frame. Most of his passing was also long range, 29 attempts with 88.5% accuracy. Left after 75 minutes for an early shower…er, wait...
FWD: Brandon Vazquez – 9. 6 Open Cup games. 6 goals. Not bad at all, especially for a player who has not seen much play otherwise. His 4 goals in the Cup this year tie him for the competition lead with Charles Boateng of the Richmond Kickers (now eliminated) and Darwin Quintero of Minnesota United. The season record in the modern era (defined as 1995 and after) is 6, held jointly by David Bulow of the Richmond Kickers in 2011 (these guys clearly like to score), Kenny Cooper of the Seattle Sounders in 2014 and Mauro Manotas of the Houston Dynamo in 2018.
SUB: Brek Shea – 7. Replaced Meram after 69 minutes and played pretty well. Came oh so close to a tight angle goal. Also made a late clearance.
SUB: Andrew Carleton – 6. Brought on for Pity in a rather surprising move. Touched the ball a total of 6 times.
SUB: Florentin Pogba – 7. 1 tackle and 2 clearances in 9 official minutes, and all of those inside the box.
COACH: Frank de Boer – 7. Put a strong side on the
field pool, and stuck it to the Crew early. Good plan, and well executed.
CREW FANS – 0. We were all on your side before. But booing Justin Meram as he left the field was pretty classless.