This one was so bad, I really don’t want to write about it.
In fact, to make things easy, how about this from the whoscored.com match summary:
Yeah, that about sums it up. In rather less…er…colorful language than I would like to use, that is.
There really are no positives to take from this execrable performance. The team was horrifically flat, which, to be frank, it has been heading towards over the past few games. With everything to play for, including a tribute to its injured and missing star, Atlanta United simply blew it.
As Rob Usry has already pointed out, this loss was not really a surprise. The They-should-whip-a-few-on-their-own-backs Stripes were missing two key players and were facing what is arguably the biggest home field advantage in the league (New York City FC are 11-1-5 at home, second best after Los Angeles FC’s 12-1-3. Atlanta is 3rd at 11-2-3). What I would not have expected was the utter capitulation. Less than 34 minutes into the game United was down 3-0 to the first hat-trick the team has ever allowed, and would have entered the break down by 4 if not for Maxi Moralez’ shanked penalty kick.
The second half wasn’t as bad. Through the first 35 minutes of the half, Atlanta managed 53.8% possession and outshot NYCFC 4-3. Then, of course, NYCFC’s leading scorer Héber, playing for the first time in a month, rammed the final nail into the coffin, and Atlanta couldn’t even win the half.
By the end of the day, or rather, by early morning Thursday given the late West Coast kick-offs, United had not only lost the chance to finish first in the conference, but had also slipped back to third behind the Philadelphia Union, who predictably beat a depleted San Jose Earthquakes team.
Not so long ago, Atlanta was in control of its own destiny. Over the past five games, United has thrown that away. The team has gone 2-3-0 over those five games, with the three losses by an aggregate score of 3-10.
Now, to finish second and guarantee home field advantage until the conference championship, Atlanta needs the Union to drop points while winning out. The Union play at the Columbus Crew and then host NYCFC. But if NYCFC manage at least a tie at the New England Revolution on Sunday, they will have secured first place and will not have much to play for in the season finale against Philly.
As for winning out, Atlanta now heads up to fake France and will play on one of the biggest fields in MLS immediately after playing on the smallest. To finish the season, the Revs come south. Right now, both teams are motivated. The Revs are clinging to the final playoff spot and need as many points as they can muster. Playing NYCFC this weekend is a big ask even on Tom Brady’s living room carpet, so unless the Chicago Fire, Montreal Impact and Orlando City all drop points this weekend, they are looking at needing a win in Atlanta. The Fire host Toronto FC and Orlando are at FC Cincinnati. Montreal are 5 points out of the playoffs, but still have an outside chance.
To draw a small morsel of positivity out of an otherwise nightmare evening, the Union and Revs games were the last interconference games to be played. As a group, the East is an underwhelming 55-61-28 against the West. However, the East has 4 teams with winning records, whereas the West has only 3. Moreover, Atlanta’s 8-4-0 tops the East. 24 is the same points total as NYCFC’s 7-2-3, but MLS’s tiebreak system gives it to United. The other 2 winning records are the Revs (6-1-5) and D.C. United (6-5-1). Only LAFC (7-0-5) is better than Atlanta. Real Salt Lake and the Seattle Sounders (both at 7-3-2) round out the winning teams.
In a less than upbeat mood, then, here are the Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
Man of the Match is Pity Martinez. He scored the only goal, albeit from the penalty spot, but was at least making an effort. No Special Mentions were earned this time.
GK: Brad Guzan – 6. 4 saves, and was fairly close to that PK if it had gotten closer. Gets bonus points for his post-game rant.
CB: Florentin Pogba – 2.5. 6 tackles, 1 clearance, 1 block and 6 recoveries. But man he stank the joint up. He got a dumb early yellow which hampered him from then on, and gave up the PK with a ludicrous foul.
CB: Miles Robinson – 4. 2 tackles, 1 interception, 2 clearances, 2 blocks and 4 recoveries. Just 23 passes for 78.3% accuracy. Way off his usual standard.
CB: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez – 2.5. Also terrible. He was clumsy and appeared uncomfortable playing on the right. 7 tackles, 3 interceptions, 2 clearances and 8 recoveries. And a yellow card. He gets one in Montreal, he misses the season finale.
LWB: Tito Villalba – 4. Tito is clearly still not fully game fit, and is very rusty. 1 off-target shot and only 18 passes for 77.8% completion. None made it into the 18. Pulled after 71 minutes.
LM: Darlington Nagbe – 5. Even Darlington couldn’t make this one work. Generally excellent in tight spaces, this field should be his to command. Not so on Wednesday. A mere 34 passes with a very unNagbeesque 85.3% accuracy rate.
RM: Eric Remedi – 3.5. Eric was poor, and unsurprisingly the first man off. 23 passes, 82.6% finding their targets. And a yellow card disqualifying him for Montreal, thereby creating more headaches for FdB.
RWB: Franco Escobar – 4. Franco has not been good going forward this season, and opting to play him at wingback in lieu of Julian Gressel was a strange choice. Possibly FdB thought the field was too narrow for Julian, who needs space out wide. Just 25 passes for 56% completion in 82 minutes.
LAM: Emerson Hyndman – 5. Also low passing numbers: 64% on 25 attempts. However, he did get 4 into the box. One shot on frame.
RAM: Pity Martinez – 6. 3 shots, although only the PK was on target. 34 passes with 58.8% accuracy. 7 of them got into the penalty area.
FWD: Brandon Vazquez – 5. Also had 3 shots with 1 on target. Josef Martinez he is not, but even Josef would have been at a loss with the service provided.
SUB: Mo Adams – 3.5. Replaced Eric Remedi, and made it a double yellow at that position. Both of them are out next game. Yet more problems for FdB to deal with. 12 passes for 83.3% accuracy.
SUB: Justin Meram – 4. 19 official minutes in which he managed just 8 passes with 6 connecting.
SUB: Dion Pereira – 4. Just 1 pass in 8 minutes. At least he found his target.
COACH: Frank de Boer – 5. Threw the dice and lost. Going with the 3-4-3 was always going to be a risk with the limited lineup options, and moving Franco to wingback was a poor decision. Probably should have gone with a 2-5-3. Like on a foosball table.
GROUND RULES – 10. MLB has them, so MLS should too. All visiting teams forced to play on that teensy corner lot in the Bronx should be allowed a full week to prepare, and a full week afterwards to readjust to normality.