Conflicted feelings after draws, busy schedules, and more: Starting Lineup, September 4
by Jason Longshore
What a crazy weekend of calling games and travel. I'm very thankful for today being a holiday because I needed it after somehow calling 4 games in a 24-hour period from 8pm (Eastern) Saturday night through 8pm on Sunday. Lots to talk about in today's Starting Lineup...
1- Still not sure how to feel after Atlanta United's 2-2 draw in Frisco, TX against FC Dallas. I said going into it that I would be happy with a point, but the way it happened was just strange all the way around. The early goal being conceded (more on that next), followed by a great response with goals from Giakoumakis and Lobjanidze, then conceding an equalizer way too quickly. Both teams will feel like they could have won it, and both teams will also feel like they could have lost it. In that sense, maybe the draw is the reasonable result, but I still feel like Atlanta left two points on the table in Texas. (photo credit: ATLUTD) 2- The refereeing was just baffling in this one. Ismir Pekmic is in his first full year as a referee in MLS and this was not a performance to hang your hat on. Late decisions, a gigantic window for bringing plays back after advantage doesn't materialize, both teams had gripes about the way the game was called and managed. I don't think I've seen a fourth official, in this case the experience Jair Marrufo, have to do so much to keep both benches calm. Of course, he had to hear more from the Atlanta bench after the no-call on Dallas' opening goal. It should have been a foul on Jesus Ferreira. Miles Robinson cut off his run, was shoved, then got a position between the ball and the attacker and Ferreira ran through him to create Paul Arriola's goal. That is called a foul (almost) every time and should have been called here. It changed everything about how the game turned out. We talk a lot about players getting respect or getting calls from referees. If there's anyone in the league who should get that call, it's Miles Robinson. He does not have a reputation for going down easy. He plays through contact regularly. You don't see him getting in referees' faces often. Just a shock that the call goes against him and the whole night took a different turn after that. 3- One of my favorite things I get to do with Atlanta United is to call the matches for the Unified Team and Saturday night was no exception. The joy from the players on both teams, the spirit that the match was played with from both teams, and the smiles on all of their faces, it's what sport should be about and so often gets lost. Atlanta United's Unified Team was so excited to finish their season undefeated, while Dallas gave them a really strong match (and an incredible golazo from FCD). So thankful that we were able to stream all of the Unified Team's games this year, including two broadcasts from the road. 4- I called two women's college games yesterday and both were compelling in different ways. Georgia State lost 1-0 at home to Ole Miss in a game that felt like a chess match as the Panthers were trying to figure out ways to beat a relentless Ole Miss defense that pressed as effectively as they defended in their own 18. The breakthrough for the visitors came from a long throw-in immediately after the first half hydration break. Two very evenly-matched teams and a battle of wills that went the way of the Rebels. The Panthers are a team that I really enjoy because of their strong identity and game model, something that isn't easy to build in a college program. Excited to see how they grow this season going into Sun Belt Conference play in a few weeks.
5- I'm also excited to see how the Owls of Kennesaw State grow this season after an outstanding second half yesterday, earning a 1-1 draw with the unbeaten Florida Gators. It was their best 45 minutes of the season, and against a team that had won their last match 8-0 against one of KSU's fellow ASUN members Stetson. Freshman Anabel Orozco injected some serious energy into the Owl's team, playing all across the front line from late in the first half through the entire second half. Her energy was contagious and she was involved in the build-up to the KSU equalizer scored by Agata Giani. The Owls host Georgia State on Thursday night, I'll be on the call alongside Matteen Rad on ESPN+.
6- Inter Miami went to LA for the first time as the Lionel Messi y Amigos road show and the Herons defeated LAFC 3-1 at BMO Stadium. Messi assisted the final two goals for Miami and the conversations about the Herons getting into the playoffs are back on. They have nine games left to play and they are eight points behind DC United, who moved into the final playoff spot after their Saturday night win over Chicago. The tricky thing for Miami is that they will definitely miss Messi for two matches that will be played during or immediately international breaks (this Saturday hosting Kansas City, October 18 hosting Charlotte one day after Argentina travels to Peru). It's a very compressed schedule with midweek games and games following international breaks that he might not be 100% in. It's going to be a fun journey to follow, and Miami picked up three somewhat unexpected points in California to give themselves a better chance to get into the postseason.
7- After rumors linked him to MLS and Liga MX, Sergio Ramos has signed with his boyhood club Sevilla as a free agent. "Sergio arrived at our youth academy at the age of seven and progressed through the youth ranks until he made his debut in the first reserve team at the age of 16 in the 2002-03 season," Sevilla said in a statement.
8- Uruguay will look different as World Cup qualifiers start this week in CONMEBOL. Not just because of Marcelo Bielsa taking over either. Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, long-time mainstays of the squad, have been left out by Bielsa as he seeks to rejuvenate the squad. Both Cavani and Suarez are 36-years old now, the oldest player in Bielsa's squad is 30-year old goalkeeper Sergio Rochet. Facundo Torres (Orlando) and Cristian Oliveira (LAFC) were the two MLS players picked for the team.
9- The men’s Spanish national team have issued a statement condemning the actions of suspended RFEF President Luis Rubiales. La Roja’s captains called an impromptu press conference, where the rest of the squad watched on as Alvaro Morata read a statement prepared by the players, backed by his fellow captains, Cesar Azpilicueta, Rodri Hernandez and Marco Asensio. In other news around the Rubiales drama, Jorge Vilda could be sacked by the Spanish football federation this week according to reports.
10- On this day in 1989, the new professional indoor team in town hired their first coach. The Atlanta Attack made it official that legendary indoor soccer coach Keith Tozer would be the first (and ultimately only) man to lead the Attack from the bench. Tozer had won multiple championships in the AISA with the Louisville Thunder before moving to the MISL with the Los Angeles Lazers.
11- On this date in 1982, the Steve Miller Band earned their third #1 hit on the US charts as your Song of the Day climbed to the top of the singles chart. Here's a live performance of it from that year: