In interim manager Rob Valentino’s second game in charge of Atlanta United, the Five Stripes continued looking aggressive in the attack, but a lack of clinical edge and some fantastic saves by Columbus Crew goalkeeper Eloy Room kept Atlanta off the board as the three points went back to Ohio. Here are are Dirty South Soccer’s player ratings.
GK Alec Kann 6: Unlike the game against FC Cincinnati midweek, Kann didn’t have much to do in this one. Columbus only registered 3 saves and there was very little he was able to do about the goal Columbus scored off a set piece flick-on to the back post.
LB Ronald Hernandez 6: Hernandez is still finding his feet a bit at a left back position in which he has experience but is not yet fully natural. He passed the ball more inefficiently than most in Atlanta’s attack, but he’s still not looking like a glaring weak link, which I suppose is a good thing.
CB Anton Walkes 6: Walkes was his steady self on Saturday, which is a credit to him considering the both center backs are on a little more of an island than they were in Gabriel Heinze’s system using a back three.
CB Alan Franco 7: Against Cincinnati I said Franco had played his best game in an Atlanta United shirt, and he one-upped himself Saturday. But while his play vs FCC was more defined by what he was doing defensively, I thought Saturday he looked sharp and comfortable at the back, particularly in the way he received the ball and manipulated his body position to give himself a better position to operate.
RB Brooks Lennon 7: Lennon was sneaky good in this one, as he tends to be. He’s a player being asked to do more defensively in Valentino’s system, but he showed Saturday he’s up to the task with a team-leading three tackles in addition to 3 chances created. And in what will go down in the books as a simple incomplete cross, he nearly connected with Josef Martinez early on a Gressel-like deep bending cross.
CM Santiago Sosa 7: I am loving Sosa as a more traditional central midfielder under Valentino than playing as a hybrid center back under Heinze. It allows Sosa to be involved in everything the team does and helps “solve problems,” according to Valentino. That’s the same exact phrase coaches and players would use when talking about what Darlington Nagbe did for the team during his time in Atlanta.
CM Matheus Rossetto 6: Depending on your perspective, Rossetto’s game Saturday can be viewed as glass-half-full or glass-half-empty. On the positive side, he doesn’ often give up possession, completing a team-high (not including Jake Mulraney) 93.5 percent of his passes. On the downside, not a single one of those passes provided a shot attempt for a teammate, and Valentino admitted after the game that he’d like to see Rossetto be more aggressive in trying to take advantage of areas to attack. Still, it was a solid performance and one Atlanta will certainly take considering his lack of playing time.
LW Machop Chol 5: Chol looks like... well, a rookie who is still adapting to the speed and physicality of the professional game. We shouldn’t expect Chol to solve the team’s problems in attack, but credit to him for training well enough that he’s so highly thought of among the staff. I like the way he uses his unique body shape — he provided a couple of nifty headers down to teammates in attacking positions. But he isn’t effective coming inside at all, which limits his output and makes him easier to defend.
CAM Marcelino Moreno 8 (Man of the Match): The second consecutive MOTM performance from Moreno who was again spearheading Atlanta’s attack throughout the match. While I don’t love how quick he is to pull the trigger on long shots, at least his are of good quality and he very well could’ve scored from one of them Saturday if not for Room. If this is the Marcelino Moreno we continue to see throughout the season and once teammates return (a big if), he will prove to be a valaubale signing for the club.
RW Jake Mulraney 4: Tough one for Mulraney, who only played for 18 minutes before leaving with a foot injury. But in that span, he had a quality chance to give Atlanta a lead, but his shot went wide without testing Room.
ST Josef Martinez 5: It wasn’t Josef’s best game, but a 5 from Josef is as good as a 7 from pretty much anyone else in his position on the team. His presence changes the game and he’s finding ways to contribute through link-up even when his fitness isn’t at 100 percent. But speaking of fitness, the biggest win for Atlanta may have been Martinez playing the entire 90 minutes. While it certainly wasn’t the plan, it’s good to know that he had that in him, and he gets almost a full week to prepare for Orlando.
SUB Erik Lopez 4: Tough to fully encapsulate Lopez’s game because he was more providing a threat with off ball runs in behind than actually touching it. But he missed the best chance of the game when Moreno played a ball through a Josef Martinez dummy. Again, credit to Eloy Room for closing it down and making it difficult.
SUB Jurgen Damm 3: The problem with a player like Jurgen Damm is this: If your primary attribute is speed and simply running in behind the opponent on the ball, it’s very difficult to do that when the opponent is sitting back protecting a lead. That was clear as day Saturday and it’s hard for me to see him as ever being an effective “super sub” for that reason. He can help as a sub if the team is already winning and the opposition is pushing forward, but is that really the time when a coach would want to sub him into a game?
SUB Amar Sejdic NA
SUB Cubo Torres NA: Just wondering out loud why Jackson Conway wouldn’t be the late sub to come in if you’re pumping balls into the box. He’s a much more physical presence and he’s shown he has legit quality directing headers!