And so Atlanta United 2.5 begins. As restarts go, it wasn’t bad. The trouble is, it wasn’t all that good either.
Nashville SC is hardly a powerhouse opponent. Aside from being an expansion team of the old style (which is to say, weak), they missed out entirely on the MLS Is Back tournament and had only played their bubble-bursting cohort FC Dallas since. In fact, in 5 games they have only played 3 teams (the Portland Timbers being the third) and have totaled just 4 points. Considering they have only scored 2 goals so far, I guess that’s impressive in its own way.
Obviously, Atlanta didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard in Orlando either, so this game had a good chance of being a complete snorefest. A poor team against a team struggling to find itself again. On top of that, interim manager Stephen Glass is an unknown quantity as far as MLS is concerned. With all that, it was hard to know what to expect.
2 great goals from Pity Martinez probably was not high on most people’s list of expectations. Here are a few other things most were not looking for:
- An anemic 6 shots, and only 4 on target. For a team that was anticipated to be setting its offense loose, that’s not a great showing.
- Worse, Nashville generated 15 shots, although 9 of those were wild attempts from outside the penalty area and recorded an xG of 1.57 vs. Atlanta’s 1.26.
- Playing out of the back. Here’s the heatmap:
Only 22% of the game was played in Nashville’s defensive third.
- Atlanta attempted 14 crosses and connected on…zero.
- George Bello going the full 90. And getting into it with Anibal Godoy (who should have been red carded, IMHO. More on that later).
- No Ezequiel Barco or Miles Robinson in the starting XI. Man, that sucked.
- Jurgen Damm not even on the bench.
Fortunately, shots was pretty much the only statistical category Nashville led. Unfortunately, that includes cards issued, with Brooks Lennon, Anton Walkes and George Bello all getting yellows (not counting the one issued to assistant coach Henry Apaloo).
As for Godoy, whose wrestling takedown of George Bello in the 77th minute led to Apaloo’s yellow, he should have been carded at some level for that move alone. But in the ensuing melee there was this:
Referee Ted Unkel (whose clearly incorrect throw-in call started the whole thing) is clearly looking at someone else. Fair enough. But assistant referee Corey Rockwell is looking straight at this incident in which Godoy gives Eric Remedi a slap in the face. Amazingly, Remedi does not explode in response despite already being fired up. Granted, the force used was light, but does it come under the definition of “negligible” which is the only way the Laws allow this not to be a red card offense? Maybe. But this combined with the takedown should have been a double yellow. It wasn’t caught by VAR either.
It also wasn’t addressed by the Disciplinary Committee, who saw fit to suspend Franco Escobar for hacking Dominque Badji earlier in the game. Well. MLS. PRO. You know how it goes.
With that, we move on to Inter Miami. Someone help me – is that pronounced INter or InTER? Not to be confused, of course, with The Miami FC (also an expansion team), who played Atlanta United 2 last Wednesday. Although no one would blame you if you did – they have a combined 8 points from 12 games. And this might be the first ever Atlanta fans want Leandro Gonzalez Pirez to get his traditional card (he didn’t get one against Orlando City on Saturday (but Brek Shea did).
On then, to the Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
Man of the Match is Pity Martinez, as if there was ever any doubt. Special Mentions go to George Bello, who generally fantastic and to Eric Remedi, not least for his pinpoint long-range assist on Pity’s first goal.
GK: Brad Guzan – 8. 5 saves and a donut. Including one late super save to preserve that clean sheet.
LB: Anton Walkes – 6.5. 1 tackle, 4 clearances, 1 block and 4 recoveries. Anton looked fairly sharp in defense, but did not venture forward much. Picked up a yellow fairly early.
CB: Fernando Meza – 6. A tough night. He recorded 1 tackle, 5 clearances and 1 recovery before being forced out of the game at half time. Let’s hope for a speedy recovery, because if neither he nor Miles Robinson is 90-minutes ready, Houston, we have a problem.
RB: Franco Escobar – 6. That’s something of a retrospective rating given the suspension. Otherwise, he did fairly well. 1 tackle, 4 interceptions, 2 clearances and 6 recoveries, as well as pushing strongly forward in attack.
LWB: George Bello – 7.5. George logged just 35 passes, but was an impressive 94.3% accurate with them. He alsos had a shot on frame that could easily have found the net. But gets docked for the yellow card for time wasting.
LM: Emerson Hyndman – 6. Played 70 minutes and wasn’t too impressive. 84.2% completion on 38 passes, and no shots attempted.
RM: Eric Remedi – 8. Eric was the boss. 52 passes, 86.5% finding their target, including that assist, which had to be close to 40 yards.
RWB: Brooks Lennon – 5.5. A disappointing outing to say the least. He hampered himself with a yellow card just 6 minutes in, and proceeded to attempt a mere 26 passes for 84.6% accuracy.
LAM: Matheus Rossetto – 7. Overall, Matheus was kind of quiet and unobtrusive, although the did show flashes of quality occasionally. But despite being largely invisible, he racked up 50 passes and hit on 48 of them.
RAM: Pity Martinez – 9. Because I never give 10s.
FWD: Adam Jahn – 5. No shots attempted in 80 minutes, and offside twice. Not good enough.
SUB: Miles Robinson – 7. Pressed into early emergency service. 1 interception, 6 clearances, and 1 block.
SUB: Mo Adams – 7. Came on for Hyndman and proceeded to connect on all 11 of his passes, including the assist for Pity’s second goal.
SUB: Erick Torres – 7. A far better option than Adam Jahn, and gets the hockey assist.
SUB: Jeff Larentowicz – 6. The obligatory appearance, but he didn’t do much.
COACH: Stephen Glass – 8. Pretty successful for his first MLS game.
FAKE FANS – 10. Infinitely better than real fans. I have it on good authority from the MBS janitorial staff.