Atlanta 0 – New York Red Bulls 1
Cincinnati 0 – Columbus 4
As the weather in Orlando begins to heat up so does the soccer. Tonight’s games were delayed by about 45 minutes due to lightning in the area, but once they started they were quite entertaining. Atlanta vs New York Red Bulls really brought the fire from the opening kick-off and then we got to see another installment in the “Hell is Real” rivalry of Columbus and Cincinnati. As the players begin to get back into game shape we will start to see better and better games. Let’s hand out some grades.
Atlanta United: B
Atlanta started a little slow but definitely picked it up in the second half. They should also be thanking their lucky stars that they have Brad Guzan in goal or this would have likely finished three or four to zero. Their attack was expected to be lacking without their thirty goal scorer, Josef Martinez, who they lost for the season back in their first game of the season. Pity Martinez tried to fill the void on the attacking side but isn’t quite sure exactly what he needs to do. As their coach is able to work with them, I expect Atlanta to be back to the team we’re used to seeing.
New York Red Bulls: B+
The Red Bulls were playing at an A grade the entire game, but much like Atlanta, needed their goalkeeper in order to keep the score what it was. Atlanta was able to get plenty of great chances in the final minute but David Jensen shone bright keeping all of the efforts out of his net. New York was able to get a very quick goal and continued to pressure for most of the game. They started to take some pace off as their legs got tired but were able to hold off the Atlanta chances and get 3 much needed points.
Man of the Match: Florian Valot
David Jensen made a strong case for man of the match with his 10 minutes of brilliance at the end of this game, but the goal was such a great piece of work that I had to give it to Valot. Much of the credit will rightfully go to Kaku for seeing the run and making the pass at the perfect timing to send Valot through free for a one-on-one with Guzan, but it was Valot who had to keep the level head and slot it past the probable US National Team starter and he did just that.
The second game of the night was another installment of the “Hell is Real” rivalry between Columbus Crew and Cincinnati FC. They were tied at 1-1-1 in all competitions heading into this match but I don’t believe Cincinnati is anywhere near the level of Columbus quite yet. This was very clear in the matchup tonight.
Cincinnati FC: D
Nothing worked for Cincinnati. They could not keep possession of the ball. Their passes weren’t sharp. Their defense was nonexistent. It’s clear that Cincinnati is one of the worst teams in the MLS. There isn’t much to say here except they simply need to be better, however, I doubt that happens during this tournament.
Columbus Crew: A
Yes they were facing Cincinnati, but Columbus was in control since the opening minute. Lucas Zelarayan slotted in a beautiful free kick in the 27th minute and then three minutes later Gyasi Zardes did what he does best and the game was over from that point on. The Crew were lucky to get their opening game against the worst team in the group so they could get their feet under them before taking on the tough teams that remain in the group. Great start for Columbus and they have to like their chances to get out of this group.
Man of the Match: Gyasi Zardes
Zardes is a striker in the truest sense of the word. He doesn’t get many touches on the ball usually, but he understands how to sit on the last defender and use his strength and speed to beat him and put the ball into the net. He only had two shots but the more important number is that he had two goals. He’s been an absolute stud since coming to the Crew and now I think the Crew are starting to get on his level.