Life imitates art. After season 2, Bob Newby the hero and Dr. Owens the good scientist are gone. Chief Hopper tries to be a parent and fails to get the kids to follow his orders. The kids do what they want, then all start fighting. Elsewhere, the evil Russians apparently have been around a while. They finally release the mind flayer, who gets a long-haired surfer kid to lead his invasion.
Yeah, Will Farrell as a cackling Russian general seems about right.
This game was definitely a strange thing. We had 78 seconds of joy, followed by 30 minutes of bunkering, followed by 13 minutes of utter disaster, followed by a couple of minutes of recovery. Then the break. Then 5 minutes of more strangeness leading to a possibly recoverable situation, followed by 40 minutes of closely matched soccer.
It was also the fourth game in Atlanta United’s short history in which 7 goals were scored. Atlanta has scored 20 of the 28 goals. This was the first one the team lost.
Except, of course, there should only have been 6 goals in this game, because that penalty decision was flat out wrong. First, the contact was outside the penalty area. Second, it was minimal at worst. Third, Carlos Vela had already lost control of the ball and so was not impeded. Fourth, he blatantly dived. This was a terrible case of non-use of VAR and a real home field decision.
That does not of course excuse the horrendous defensive breakdown in the final third of the first half. Granted, Los Angeles FC this season is a goal-scoring machine, but even so. However, 30 minutes of playing with your backs to the wall will result in a degree of fatigue and maybe cause a lapse on the back line, but 3 of them in such a short time? Not good. Even having given up 63.1% possession the first 30 minutes of the game, the We-have-3300-in-ours Stripes had allowed just 3 shots and only one on target, while generating 3 shots of their own, with 2 on target, one of which scored.
Under most circumstances, a 1-goal loss to LAFC at their home field would not be all that bad. But not like this. Especially considering that the team played relatively well in the second half. After the break, Atlanta looked confident, held 53.8% possession, took 7 of its total 11 shots, and allowed no further goals. Ultimately, the game was very close statistically.
Joe Patrick has already looked at a number of the positives to be drawn from this bizarroworld game, but here are a couple more:
First, we saw the long-awaited return of Ezequiel Barco, whose previous MLS game was May 5th, 82 days and 14 games ago. And he looked very good in his return.
Second, with the Philadelphia Union getting pummeled 4-0 by the Montreal Impact, Atlanta lost no ground in the Eastern Conference race. However, the East is now very tight, with only 7 points between the top 8 teams, or just 0.38 PPG. And New York City FC is rising fast.
Third, and perhaps least importantly from Atlanta’s immediate perspective, LAFC is showing some cracks. Bob Bradley was clearly furious with his team at half time, and shipping an own goal in the second half probably didn’t improve his mood. Further, LAFC has allowed 3 goals in each of its last two games, which it had not done since September 29th last year (at the Chicago Fire).
With that, we head into the All-Star
break schedule-cramming, and look forward to the other half of the LA duopoly on Saturday.
Here are the Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
Man of the Match was close, but for the second straight game goes to a substitute. This time it’s Ezequiel Barco, who was evidently none the worse for wear and tried valiantly to light a spark. Special Mentions to Josef Martinez for keeping us in the game, and to Brad Guzan for his efforts despite the 4 goals.
GK: Brad Guzan – 7. OK, they scored 4. But one was a PK, and Brad was left out to dry on the other 3. And yet he made 7 saves in the game, the first of which was from a misdirected clearance by Miles Robinson.
CB: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez – 5.5. Statistically, a good game. 5 tackles, 6 clearances and a block. But he blew his cover on the first goal, and picked up yet another yellow card. That’s his 6th of the season. He’s already used one Good Behavior incentive to cut 1 from his total, and has the option to cut a second. That means he does not have to miss the Galaxy game this weekend. MLS rules allow up to three Good Behavior incentives a season, but you need to go 5 games without a card to get one. With only 11 games left, there seems little reason not to use one now.
CB: Miles Robinson – 6. Forced Guzan into an early save, and completely blocked him from stopping the second goal. Otherwise, 2 tackles, 3 interceptions, 3 clearances and I block.
RB: Franco Escobar – 6. Got royally stiffed on the penalty call. 3 tackles, 3 interceptions and 1 clearance.
LWB: Mo Adams – 6. Got his first MLS goal just seconds into his first Atlanta start (his 27th MLS game). But then more or less disappeared. In 45 minutes he made 14 passes with a woeful 64.1% accuracy.
LM: Darlington Nagbe – 6. A very low 35 passes, albeit with 97.1% accuracy. And that passing was not overly productive, and was all over the map too.
CM: Eric Remedi – 5.5. One ludicrously long-range shot. 39 passes, 71.8% connecting. And a yellow card for hacking Vela down.
RM: Emerson Hyndman – 6. Question of the week: should Pity have been pulled for Barco or should Hyndman? I was surprised at the choice myself, but Barco has not been used much by Atlanta as a right mid. And it’s not as if Emerson was playing badly. He was OK, not great. 1 shot on target, 25 passes for 84%.
RWB: Julian Gressel – 6. Racked up yet another assist to Josef. Other than that his passing, usually great from a wide position, was a rather poor 67.7% on 31 attempts.
CAM: Pity Martinez – 6. Clearly angry to get the hook in the 59th minute, but his numbers weren’t exactly stellar. 15 passes for 60% accuracy and 1 off-target shot.
FWD: Josef Martinez – 7. Closing in on tying his own scoring streak record. 5 shots, but only the one on target, although he came agonizingly close a couple of times.
SUB: Justin Meram – 6.5. Came on at half time, replacing Adams. He was clearly more energetic than the starter, putting 5 balls into the box. Picked up a yellow card though.
SUB: Ezequiel Barco – 7. Played 31 official minutes, and was very aggressive in that time. 13 passes for 76.9% accuracy, mostly well into th4e attacking half.
COACH: Frank de Boer – 6. Probably the right game plan, but if he cannot get his players to buy into his philosophy, he may well have a problem. At the least he needs to get them to perform consistently.
VAR – 0. When is it ever going to get used properly in MLS?