Atlanta United’s season has now gone as far south as it possibly can. Literally.
For 45 minutes at least, this was radically different from the previous meeting between the Five Stripes and MLS newcomers Inter Miami, which was a total snoozefest. This one was entertaining, if not for the right reasons. Quality soccer it was not, although I doubt anyone was really expecting it would be.
We also now know what to expect from Inter Fort Lauderdale—excuse me— Miami, going forward. That’s important, since Atlanta plays them again on September 19th at the Benz. In a word: fouls. Atlanta suffered 21 fouls in this game, down 1 from the previous Inter game. Both are well above Inter’s average of 17.0 fouls per game. That’s the highest in the league by a wide margin: next are the Chicago Fire and New York City FC at 14.8 per game. And Atlanta plays Chicago a week after the Miami game.
On the flip side, and in large part as a result of having played Miami twice, Atlanta leads the league in fouls suffered at 17.9 per game. Inter is second at 16.3, so they get almost as good as they give. At this point they should have chainlink around their pitch.
And the numbers could – indeed, should – be worse. Referee Robert Sibiga let a lot of fouls go. In particular, avid sports card collector Leandro Gonzalez Pirez could easily not have made it past 26 minutes.
There were other odd officiating decisions as well. Consider this:
And this, 8 minutes later:
In both cases, that’s Cubo Torres standing in the middle of the wall. Last year, that would have been perfectly legal. But with the 2019 changes to the Laws, which came into effect in MLS in 2020, it’s not. The Laws now state that if a wall has at least 3 defenders, all attacking players must be at least a yard clear until the ball is kicked. Cubo tried it again in the second half, but wasn’t allowed to get away with it. Refs have half-time strategy discussions too.
On the other hand, with VAR assistance he did get the penalty kick decision right. This, by the way, is one of the most confusing situations referees have to deal with, and we frequently get it wrong. Kevin Egan and Dan Gargan on Fox Sports South suggested that the issue was Cubo (violating set piece rules yet again) encroaching into the penalty area. That is not the case. Here’s the relevant screenshot:
Cubo does enter the 18 before the kick is taken. But if it were only him, the result would have been an indirect free kick to Miami. If Barco had scored on the kick, the result would have been a retake. But the key here is that a defender is also in the box. That is Victor Ulloa, and because he encroached and no goal was scored on the kick, a retake was required.
Prior to penalty kicks, there are 7 possible fouls specifically related to PKs, with two potential results (a goal or a save). So 14 possible situations. There are 7 different outcomes, and in 4 (now 3) of the fouls the outcome differs depending on whether a goal is scored or not. Moreover, this specific situation (dual encroachment) is not covered in the 2019-2020 Laws, and in fact has been added in the 2020-2021 Laws, along with a couple of other changes to the various outcomes.
It’s so confusing that the Laws include a table specifically listing all the situations:
That’s from the 2020-2021 Laws. Underlines indicate changes from previous Laws. A major headache.
Anyway, word has it that the front office has requested red and black striped tactical gear for the next Miami game, which Atlanta will doubtless again dominate in every statistical category except the scoreline.
Here are the Dirty South Soccer Staff Player Ratings:
Man of the Match is Eric Remedi, who continues his remarkably erratic season, and who provided much-needed comic relief with his nearly literal ass-kicking. A Special Mentions goes to George Bello, who was solid all game.
GK: Brad Guzan – 6. Just 1 save in this game, although it was a pretty good one. Had absolutely no chance on either Miami goal.
LB: George Bello – 7. 7 tackles and 5 recoveries defensively, and 85.4% accurate on 41 passes. A constant attacking threat.
CB: Anton Walkes – 6. Other than getting caught out on the 3v2 counter for the second goal, Walkes was solid. 3 tackles, 2 clearances, 1 block and 5 recoveries, along with a perfect 100% on 54 passes. Also had a shot off target.
CB: Miles Robinson – 4.5. Getting a yellow card just 9 minutes into the game is really going to hamper a center back. 2 tackles, 2 clearances and 3 recoveries. Did get a shot in though, albeit way off frame.
RB: Brooks Lennon – 5. 1 tackle, 1 interception, 2 clearances, 1 block and 7 recoveries. His passing was also good at 97.7% accuracy of 44 passes. But here’s the problem: every time the attack went through Brooks it slowed down. A lot.
LDM: Eric Remedi – 7. 81 minutes played. Just 77.1% completion rate on 35 passes, but that goal makes up for everything. Also had a second shot off frame.
RDM: Emerson Hyndman – 4. Emerson was mostly seen jogging lightly. He completed 60 of 63 passes, but the 3 he missed were his only attempts into the Miami 18. 2 shots. 1 on target.
LAM: Jon Gallagher – 5. In 75 minutes Gallagher generated just 14 passes, missing on 4 of those. His primary attacking contribution was getting his face elbowed by Nicolas Figal.
CAM: Ezequiel Barco – 5. One again Zeke was the primary target of fouling, 5 of them this time. He took 5 shots, with 2 on target. And we know what happened with those.
RAM: Jürgen Damm – 6. Jürgen’s primary contribution is his speed. He only attempted 12 passes, missing on just 2, and all were in threatening positions. Left after 63 minutes: it’s been a while since he’s played a full 90 – May 5th of 2019 to be exact.
FWD: Erick Torres – 6. 1 shot on goal in 80 minutes played. But if he’d held off just another second on the penalty kick it would have been a whole different game. Then again, he probably should have taken the kick in the first place.
SUB: Matheus Rossetto – 5. Came on for Damm and provided 22 passes with 81.8% accuracy.
SUB: Adam Jahn – 4. Replaced Gallagher and proceeded to do notyhing of consequence.
SUB: Jake Mulraney – 5. Not sure of the logic of replacing a striker with a winger, but that’s what Glass did. Also ineffective.
SUB: Jeff Larentowicz – 4.5. 10 official minutes, 10 passes (for 90% completion) and a yellow card. Not great.
COACH: Stephen Glass – 5. Not sure what to do here, to be honest. Glass is already beginning to show that he is out of his depth. Keep the sideline mics near him though.
PINK – 0. Ugh. Especially in that quantity.