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Atlanta United 1-3 Columbus Crew: Staff Player Ratings

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Lots of blame all around

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Atlanta United FC Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

My kid bought a $200 ticket to Music Midtown. I bought a $20 ticket to Atlanta United. I’m thinking he got the better deal.

United has lost by 2 or more goals 15 times in MLS regular season play, but only twice at home. The previous loss was a 2-0 defeat to Sporting Kansas City May 9th last year. It has also lost only 7 times at home.

This was the worst performance of all those 7 losses. It may also be worse than the 4-0 loss at the Houston Dynamo and the 4-1 loss at Toronto FC bookending last season, as well as the 5-1 loss at the Chicago Fire this past July 3rd. Those are the only MLS games Atlanta has lost by wider margins.

The performance Saturday was all the worse in that the team should have been rested coming off the international break, and motivated given that they had fallen behind both New York City and the Philadelphia Union. Instead they got…well, flat.

Who was to blame? Fingers can be pointed in multiple directions:

  1. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, for serving his 3rd suspension of the season (2 for yellow card accumulation, 1 for a red). He has 10 total cards for the season; only FC Dallas’ Bryan Acosta has more with 11. And that’s just in MLS.
  2. Ezequiel Barco, for still being injured.
  3. Franco Escobar, for bleaching out all his talent.
  4. Miles Robinson, for playing 2 games for Gregg Berhalter.
  5. Julian Gressel, for thinking golf is a good way to relax over the international break.
  6. Frank de Boer, for not kicking a few asses on the training fields when it became clear it was needed.
  7. The entire team, for basically sleepwalking through what should have been an easy win.

It was a criminally bad display. And now the They-really-ought to-be-prison Stripes have managed to lose both games to the 3rd worst team in the league, and in both ends of the weather scale: a miserable downpour and scorching heat perfect indoor conditions.

How bad was it? Atlanta managed 64.9% possession, outshot the Crew 15-12 and outpassed them 523-285 (and with far greater accuracy), and 35% of the game was played in the Crew’s defensive third. It should have been easy. Somehow United conspired to make it otherwise. Josef Martinez’ opening goal was a tad lucky, and all three Crew goals were the result of increasingly bad defensive howlers.

That’s as much tactical analysis as I can come up with. About the only positive I can think of is that this could be this season’s wake-up call, much as the Toronto loss was last season. We’ll get our first impression of that Wednesday, when the team heads to Cincinnati to try to add to its single point from Ohio.

Here, then, are the Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:

Man of the Match is Josef Martinez, for adding to his scoring streak. Special Mentions, not so much, although Julian Gressel did show some glimpses of his pre-exhaustion self.

GK: Brad Guzan – 6. In the first half, Brad clearly meant business. He only had 2 saves all night, but he was clearly the boss in his box. In the second half, not so much, but he was rather victimized by his back line.

CB: Florentin Pogba – 4. Brogba was at times brilliant, but most of the time terrible. He racked up just 1 interception and 4 recoveries in the game, and his passing was OK at 84.8% on 59 attempts. But most of the time he was just slow.

CB: Miles Robinson – 5. For the most part, Miles looked like his normal self, and his stats back that up: 3 tackles, 3 interceptions, 4 clearances, 2 blocks and 7 recoveries. 89.4% accuracy on 66 passes. But that own goal was a brain freeze of monumental proportions. Almost every centerback scores one eventually, though, and at least he gets it done with early in his career. Note that despite the own goal Miles topped the Audi Index, albeit with a lowly 565 points.

CB: Franco Escobar – 5. Franco’s defensive numbers were also fairly good: 4 tackles, 4 interceptions, 1 clearance, 2 blocks and 7 recoveries. 76 passes for 90.8% accuracy.

But here’s the thing: Miles’ and Franco’s defensive stats should not be nearly so high. The Crew had just 35.1% possession. That they were forced into generating such numbers shows that Atlanta was miserably poor defending on the counter.

LWB: Justin Meram – 4. Justin was off. Way off. He looked slow and disinterested. His passing was also bad: 25 attempts with just 72% connecting, and 2 off-target shots. Taken out after 70 minutes.

LM Eric Remedi – 4.5. Played just 70 minutes, coming out in a double switch with Justin Meram. Also largely ineffective, and picked up a yellow card in the process. 89.5% accuracy on just 38 passes.

RM: Darlington Nagbe – 6. About the only player on the team even close to recognizable as his usual self. But even he looked uncomfortable in tight spaces, where he normally thrives. 65 passes, 92.3% on target. 1 shot off frame, which should have been an easy goal. Nothing new there.

RWB: Julian Gressel – 5.5. Julian managed to get 7 balls into the Columbus 18. Only 2 were successful, but he was working to get the ball into scoring position. Also took 4 shots, 1 on target. Got frustrated late and ended up with a yellow for it.

LAM: Emerson Hyndman – 4. Credited with the hockey assist on Josef’s goal, but otherwise was pretty much invisible.

RAM: Pity Martinez – 6. 2 shots, both off frame, and the assist. Overall passing was about his average, 70.3% on 37 attempts. Left after 80 minutes.

FWD: Josef Martinez – 6. 3 shots in the game, and was very active in midfield. Not that anyone else was. The scoring streak is now extended to 14 games, putting him 1 shy of second place worldwide in that achievement.

SUB: Tito Villalba – 5. Came on with 20 minutes left and tried to light a spark. 9 passes for 88.9% accuracy and 1 off-target shot.

SUB: Dion Pereira – 4. Came on with Tito, and produced very little.

SUB: Brandon Vazquez – 4. 3 passes in 10 minutes. Only 2 of those connected. 1 off-target shot. That’s it.

COACH: Frank de Boer – 5. Probably put the best starting XI available on the field, but apparently knew things were off even before the opening whistle. His adjustments didn’t help either.

SILENCE IS GOLDEN – 0. No, it’s not.