Those are the three worst defeats in Atlanta United history, numerically speaking. So how come this one one feels so much worse?
Well, there are a number of reasons. The first is that losing 1-0 to FC Cincinnati is about as bad as losing by 5 goals to anyone else. Next is that this was an utterly lackluster performance by all concerned. OK, it was early(ish) in the morning in the stifling Central Florida heat, but the opponents had exactly the same problem. Next, and most importantly, is the team’s apparent inability to score in the absence of Josef Martinez.
Even before Jake Mulraney’s idiotic second yellow, Atlanta wasn’t lighting it up. Over the opening 25 minutes, the team enjoyed 64.8% possession, but managed just three shots. All of those were from well outside the penalty area, and none were on target. After that, they generated just 5 more, of which 3 were on target.
Atlanta United has now gone just under 216 minutes without scoring. The team had also never had back-to-back scoreless games, lose or draw. This is not good, to say the least.
Now, as regards the loss of Josef, it must be noted that of the 4 goals scored by United this season prior to the lockdown, he tallied none of them, and was on the field for only 2 of them. Matt Doyle has stated that the team’s problem is that they miss his hold-up play and scoring threat as much as his actual scoring. That’s a legitimate argument, but I don’t think it’s the only issue, or even the main issue.
The bigger problem, in my opinion, is Frank de Boer’s system. Not that it’s a bad system; indeed, after a bumpy start last year it turned out to be a pretty effective one. The problem is that it seems to be a tough one to learn. Of the 16 players to see time in this game, 8 were not with the team last season (Meza, Lennon, Mulraney, Jahn, Walkes, Castillo, Castro and Williams). To them can be added Rossetto, who played against the Red Bulls, and Adams and Bello have not had much playing time under the system either. That kind of turnover is disruptive at the best of times, but when you are working with a difficult system, and then go into lockdown for months without the ability to even practice, you have something of a perfect storm to deal with.
Does that excuse such an execrable performance? Hardly. Even going down a man early, there is no justification for the poor play. So bad was the game, I was tempted not to compile the ratings at all. I relented, though, and thus, reluctantly, here are the Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
There will be no Man of the Match honors (possibly for the first time since I’ve been doing this). No one deserves it, plain and simple.
GK: Brad Guzan – 6. Just 2 saves in this game for Brad, who wasn’t even tested until the 60th minute.
LB: Fernando Meza – 4. 2 blocks, 1 clearance and 4 recoveries. Despite being a man up, Cincinnati didn’t really press the defense. Pulled for a rest after 83 minutes.
CB: Miles Robinson –4.5. 2 blocks, but 11 recoveries. Not outstanding by Miles’ standards. Picked up an unnecessary yellow card in the process.
RB: Franco Escobar – 4.5. 2 tackles, 2 interceptions and 4 recoveries. Also received a yellow card, and was ineffective going forward.
LWB: Jake Mulraney – 1. A yellow card should put you on alert, especially one as early as 12 minutes in. Jake didn’t get the memo, and put Atlanta in a deep hole with his second just 14 minutes later.
LM: Eric Remedi – 5. In his first start since the reboot, Eric managed 91.8% accuracy on 49 passes. That’s not enough production from that position.
RM: Jeff Larentowicz – 5. Jeff managed just 31 passes, but was a strong 96.8% in completing them. He went the full 90, too.
RWB: Brooks Lennon – 4. Just 31 passes, with only 26 connecting. He also had 7 crosses, none connecting, and only 3 into the 18. The other 4 all pretty much hit the opposite corner flag, which is actually kind of impressive in that heavy humid Orlando air. He added 1 shot off target.
LM: Ezequiel Barco – 4.5. Zeke played 63 minutes and got 3 shots off in that time, although none were on frame. Also fell to the yellow card bug (there were 8 total issued in the game).
RM: Pity Martinez – 4. Rested after 83 minutes, and managed only 2 shots, although 1 was on target at least.
FWD: Adam Jahn – 3. No shots in the game at all for the striker. In his defense, he played just 34 minutes, getting sacrificed after the Mulraney ejection, but should have managed something by that point.
SUB: Edgar Castillo – 4. Replaced Jahn early, and proceeded to do...not very much. Just 25 passes, with 80% accuracy, and 1 shot on target.
SUB: Manuel Castro – 4. Swapped in for Barco, and completed 100% of his passes. Except there were were only 5 of them. Did get a shot in on goal though.
SUB: Emerson Hyndman – 4. Also was perfect on 5 passes, but no shots, and he entered the game relatively late.
SUB: JJ Williams – 1. In his Atlanta debut, Williams recorded no passes and no shots before his ejection late in the game. He was on the field for a total of 17’34”, not exactly a stellar outing. The only good thing that can be said about it is that it wasn’t a particularly fast red card. It wasn’t even the fastest this season – that belongs to NYCFC’s Maxime Chanot, who was sent off after just 2’10” on March 3rd. The all-time fastest red in MLS was a mere 18 seconds, achieved by Jose Alegria of DC United back on 6/13/01.
SUB: Anton Walkes – 4. A late defensive sub, and managed just 2 recoveries.
COACH: Frank de Boer – 3. They say a battle plan never survives contact with the enemy. This one didn’t survive contact with his own forces. As noted above, he may need to rethink his complex system for a while.
THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING ADIDAS LOGO – 1. Please shrink some more. Like a lot more.