No Josef Martinez to father them. No Tito to tame them. No Dom Dwyer to miss from point blank range. No Will Johnson to scream uselessly. No Joe Bendik to laugh at. No Jason Kreis to play with no identifiable strategy. No James O’Connor to babble incomprehensibly in a ridiculous accent.
Yes, this was not the Atlanta United-Orlando City contest of yesteryear, and neither was the result. There was an air of inevitability about this one. The game against Nashville SC offered some reasons for optimism, but the Stripes were clearly still not playing up to their old standards. Orlando is a much improved team and had every reason to want this win badly. And when Pedro Gallese brilliantly saved Brooks Lennon’s header just 7 minutes in, it was obvious things were going to be very different this time.
Admittedly, all three Orlando goals were the result of individual errors (poor passing out of the back by Brad Guzan, failure to mark on a corner by Eric Remedi, easy giveaway by Pity Martinez), but such errors have over the past year or so become all too common for Atlanta United. And this needs to be fixed, and fixed quickly, along with several other glaring problems.
The trouble is, I don’t think that fix is going to come quickly. 2020 is, I feel, going to end up as Atlanta’s lost year. As if 2020 didn’t suck enough already. Even if Stephen Glass manages to right the ship, things will get turned upside down all over again when a new permanent head coach is hired (it won’t be Glass himself). That likely is not going to happen until after the season is over, which in some respects is a good thing, as a change in direction would potentially nix Atlanta’s playoff hopes. Given that 10 teams in the Eastern Conference will make the playoffs, failure to make the playoffs for the first time is likely not an issue, but even now, a deep playoff run seems improbable, and would be more so with a new coach. Prepare yourselves.
Not that everything is all doom and gloom. There are some positives to take away from this game, and possibly from the remainder of the season. First, Glass seems very motivated to play the youth, most notably George Bello, for whom this could be the perfect year to establish himself. Second, the new additions to the team are finally getting integrated. That is most definitely true of Jürgen Damm, whose late cameo was very much a high point in the game. Third, Ezequiel Barco is back from his mystery injury and looks none the worse for wear. Fourth, Pity Martinez appears to be stretching his wings at last.
With that, here are the Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
Man of the Match was a difficult choice this week. I was tempted to agree with the community and go with Jürgen Damm, but that seems overkill for an 11-minute substitute appearance. I’m going to award it to Pity Martinez for the second straight game, not because his play was that good, but mostly because he was about the only starter playing with any sense of urgency. Damm does of course get a Special Mention. No one else does though.
GK: Brad Guzan – 4. The good news: Brad only faced 3 shots on goal all game. The bad news: they all went in, and one of them at least was entirely his own fault.
LB: George Bello – 6. George is the left back of Atlanta’s future, if he sticks around. 2 tackles, 3 clearances and 2 recoveries. Not an outstanding game, but serviceable.
CB: Anton Walkes – 5. The rating is a bit harsh, given that Anton is not normally a center back, being pressed into that service by Fernando Meza’s injury. Still, 2 clearances and 6 recoveries is a weak performance
CB: Miles Robinson – 6. Another meh showing on the back line. 2 tackles, 3 interceptions, 1 clearance, 1 block and 10 recoveries. Not bad numbers, but the central defense was weak when it counted.
RB: Brooks Lennon – 6. 2 tackles, 1 clearance, 1 block and 4 recoveries. Not great defensively, but his offensive output was good, 3 shots, 2 on goal, both of which should have scored. And he should have had a penalty awarded after the absurdly dangerous play by Antonio Carlos.
LDM: Mo Adams – 3. How bad is that that I didn’t even realize Mo was playing until he was replaced at half time? 16 passes for 93.8% accuracy. None of them really went anywhere though.
RDM: Eric Remedi – 4. Eric let Júnior Urso fly by him untouched on the first goal, and in 70 minutes he managed just 44 passes, 77.3% connecting.
LAM: Pity Martinez – 6. OK, that’s a pretty low score for Man of the Match. But other than giving up the late goal at least he was trying to make things happen. 4 shots, 1 on target, and 67.6% accuracy on 37 passes.
CAM: Matheus Rossetto – 5. 38 passes for 92.1% accuracy. Relatively invisible for the 60 minutes he was on the field.
RAM: Manuel Castro – 4. Another half time replacement, Manuel had 1 shot just off frame, but generated just 7 passes for a weak 71.4% completion rate.
FWD: Adam Jahn – 3. Two games since the break and not a single shot attempted. ‘Nuff said.
SUB: Jeff Larentowicz – 6. Entering the game at half time, Jeff connected on all 28 of his passes, and was generally disruptive in the defensive midfield.
SUB: Jake Mulraney – 5. Also a half time entrant to the game, Jake was brought on to provide some speed. He did that, but ineffectively, going just 7 for 10 on his passing.
SUB: Erick Torres – 5. Not as promising as his performance against Nashville. In 30 official minutes he produced only 5 passes, hitting on all of them.
SUB: Ezequiel Barco – 6. Zeke was moving around as always, got in 2 shots, 1 on target, and drew 4 fouls in his 30 minutes of playing time. And managed 82.1% accuracy on 28 passes. Also got the hockey assist on Lennon’s goal.
SUB: Jürgen Damm – 7. In 11 minutes he showed why Atlanta wanted him. 4 passes, all connecting, and one of them a great assist. His crossing, so far, appears Gressel-like, which is interesting, as he is known for being inaccurate in that area.
COACH: Stephen Glass – 5. Admittedly he was hampered by the Meza injury and by Franco Escobar’s suspension on the back line, but he needs to get the team to be far more creative.
ASTERISKS – 10. This could finally be the year Orlando City makes the playoffs after 5 years of utter futility. The chances of that increase because Orlando has over those 5 seasons frequently found itself in playoff position at the halfway mark, only to put on a perfect Arsenal impression and choke spectacularly down the stretch. This season will be just 23 games, not much longer than a regular half season, so their chances improve accordingly. But for the same reason, those potential playoffs will come with a huge asterisk.