With all the people on both sides trying to play down talk of a rivalry, Hector Villalba just tried his best to make it one. After Villalba’s 87th-minute goal which beat Orlando City at home last week, revenge was on the agenda for tonight’s game.
For a lot of the match, it seemed as if Orlando was going to get that revenge, and that would put the rivalry talk to rest at least a bit (or potentially heat it up, one of the two). The two teams would have simply traded three points in a two-leg affair. Yet, when Villalba scored in the 92nd minute, it made every true Lion in the world feel at least a tingle of hatred for Atlanta — as if they needed a reason.
Although the game will be defined by two great goals, there was plenty action in between, so let’s take a look at the grades.
GK, Joe Bendik, 6.5 — The stats say five saves, but that doesn’t really tell the story of Bendik’s game. We didn’t really get to see any of the spectacular saves that are normally witnessed anytime he steps on the field, but he did play a part in the Lions’ goal by sending a near perfect long ball to Larin who laid it off for Kaká to strike home. He made a couple routine saves, a couple difficult ones, a mistake that could of tied it up in the 62nd minute — luckily it rolled out for a goal kick after it slipped under him — and just wasn’t able to do anything about the goal.
One of the more difficult saves came in the 74th minute when Greg Garza charged down the left off a quick free kick. Bendik came running out of his goal and blocked the shot confidently with his body. He will likely be criticized for getting beat near post by Villalba but it was a close range shot, so he should get a pass on that one. As for his passing, it wasn’t the best today as he averaged 54% compared to Brad Guzan’s 79% — it also factors in that Guzan had 16 less passes.
D, Donny Toia, 7 (MOTM) — Toia played very well on the defensive left side, getting the better of Julian Gressel, Anton Walkes, and, later on, Brandon Vázquez on almost every occasion they went toe to toe. This was shown by his team-leading eight tackles on the night. He didn’t get forward much in the game, although he had a shot blocked in the offensive box two minutes in, but that seemed to just be part of Kreis’ game plan and no fault of his, as the Lions were very comfortable to let Atlanta possess the ball. In the 12th minute, Toia had his first of many good defensive moments when he ran back after getting beat to block a cross in a dangerous position.
D, Jonathan Spector, 7 — I was going to give Spector MOTM and an 8, until the goal. Spector played great the whole game, but he had to do better on the last-minute goal. After Aja stepped, Spector didn’t realize that was his cue to mark Villalba who ended up putting it in the back of the net. Although he led both teams in clearances, with eight, what really set him apart in terms of his good play were two crucial moments in the game. The first came in the ninth minute when it looked like Villalba had beat him for pace and was in on goal, but then after a bad touch Spector recovered and made a fantastic tackle which would make Paulo Maldini proud. His second moment came in the 74th minute when he fouled Villalba running into space. This foul was crucial because if Villalba was able to play a through ball to the right then Atlanta’s pacey attack would have been off to the races.
D, Jose Aja, 6.5 — Aja didn’t do anything of too much importance, but overall he had a pretty solid game with four tackles and three clearances. In the 86th minute, he committed a foul right in front of the 18-yard box which could have been the equalizer. On the goal, there’s nothing he really could do because he had to step when Yamil Asad burst into that gap between the midfield and defense, but that left the passing lane open for Asad to hit Villalba. The midfield should have been tighter to both Almiron and Asad — two of Atlanta’s most dangerous players — on the play.
D, Scott Sutter, 7 — If for some reason, Toia was ineligible for MOTM, I’d give it to Sutter. He made an impact early in the game, getting forward and hitting the crossbar on a shot just outside the box. He also registered a team-leading five interceptions and four clearances which is not too shabby. He was caught sleeping at one point but it was at the half line and didn’t lead to anything. It seems like almost every player on the field could be blamed for Atlanta’s goal, and Sutter is certainly one of those, but if you look at where Asad picked up the ball you’ll realize that he was too far inside for Sutter to be responsible for picking him up.
MF, Cristian Higuita, 6 — Another day, another yellow card for Cristian Higuita. It seems there’s two things he just can’t do: stay out of trouble and not turn over the ball. Today he was his usual self, racking up turnovers and tackles, the worst coming in the 64th minute, where Atlanta came rushing on the counter. Higuita picked up his yellow card in the 56th minute, after supposedly hitting a player in the face, in a scuffle after a light foul on Cyle Larin. He came off in the 76th for Richie Laryea and I’d say it was actually an improvement for the team. All negatives aside, you can’t neglect his five tackles, four interceptions, and 81% passing accuracy.
MF, Antonio Nocerino, 5.5 — Nocerino didn’t have a particularly good game last week and he didn’t redeem himself in Atlanta. The Italian picked up three fouls and was lucky not to get a yellow for persistent infringement. His passing accuracy was also a low 64%, but it wasn’t all bad. He had a great chance at the 29-minute mark to put Orlando ahead, but his header was just wide. On the late goal, he takes a small amount of the blame for not stepping and pressuring Almirón, who delivered the pass to Asad.
MF, Will Johnson, 6 — Johnson seemed to take a page out of Higuita’s playbook as he didn’t contribute much to the attack but made up for it with his defensive prowess. In the 29th minute, Johnson actually played a part in a good attacking move when he whipped in a beautiful cross which provided Nocerino’s header just wide. Just like the team as a whole, the Canadian will not be remembered for a good defensive performance but rather for his part in Atlanta’s goal. Johnson, like Nocerino, could and should have stepped up to Almirón.
MF, Kaká, 6 — It’s always hard to assess a goal scorer’s performance, but its especially hard when the goal scorer plays poorly for most of the match, which is exactly what Kaká did. Before his 40th-minute wonder goal that rattled the top right corner of Guzan’s net, and was Orlando’s only shot on target in the entire match, Kaká was virtually nonexistent. Every good buildup play came on the right side, and the Brazilian was also pretty ineffective defensively. In the second half, he was a little more involved, but I stress a little. Overall, his performance would have been defined by his great goal, if he didn’t play such a large role in the equalizer. This may sound harsh, but I blame Kaká the most because he didn’t put out any effort to tackle Miguel Almirón, while he was actually the closest to him. Sure he’s the most expensive player in MLS, but he still has to work hard for the team.
F, Dom Dwyer, 5.5 — It was a pretty disappointing debut for the English-American though it wasn’t really his fault. Dwyer made good runs, but the service just wasn’t there with the limited time that Orlando possessed the ball. One weakness that really showed was that the team could really use a number 10 to help out with the chance creation department, but I’m sure Jason Kreis and Niki Budalic already knew that. Dwyer did have two mini chances, but both were blocked by Michael Parkhurst.
F, Cyle Larin, 6.5 — Larin also suffered from the lack of chances but he did show that even when he’s not scoring he can influence the match. In the 40th minute, the Canadian wunderkind received a long ball from Bendik and played a good lay off to Kaká which of course ended in a goal to remember. Larin was off and on in terms of hold-up play but he came through when it counted. In the 49th minute, Larin took the ball down the line and sent a low cross to Dwyer which was cut out.
MF, Giles Barnes (62’), 6 — Barnes did what he had to defensively. In attack, he had a shot and a pass across goal, but both were just a bit off.
F, Carlos Rivas (73’), 6 — Rivas didn’t have to do much as he came in at striker at a time where the Lions were pinned back and defending. He got off two shots which were both blocked and forced a corner in the 89th minute. Also blocked a dangerous free kick with a header late.
MF, Richie Laryea (76’), 6.5 — Laryea impressed again in another short cameo. He showed good control on the ball and registered two tackles and an interception in about 20 minutes. Perhaps if he stayed tighter to the to center mids then Asad couldn’t have received the ball, but you can’t really blame him for that because there were a lot of other things that went wrong.
That’s what I thought. Drop a comment voicing your opinion whether or not you agree or disagree with me and vote for your Orlando City Man of the Match below.
Who was your Orlando City Man of the Match from a 1-1 draw at Atlanta United?
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