One of the strongest areas of the pitch for Atlanta United against Toronto FC this weekend was the middle, and it came from two sources Five Stripes fans may not be used to yet in the starting lineup. But Kevin Kratz and Eric Remedi –– alongside Miguel Almirón ahead and Julian Gressel and Chris McCann on the wings –– stood out against a strong Toronto midfield.
“[Kevin Kratz] and Eric [Remedi] did really well in the middle of the field,” said captain Michael Parkhurst after the match. “They are so good in the middle of the field and in possession. They did a ton of work – a ton of running – and really neutralized their midfield for the most part.”
Fans are still getting to know their newest signing in Remedi, and they may know Kratz as a free-kick dynamo off the bench. But as injuries and suspensions accumulate throughout the season, they were called together for the first time Saturday to rave reviews from their teammates, stepping up to showed they have the quality to go toe-to-toe with one of the best midfields in the league. They singled each other out for praise after the final whistle.
“He’s adapting very well,” said Kratz of his midfield counterpart. “He’s coming in and starting to talk and get into our system, and I think he’s doing pretty good and I like to play with him… We trust each other like ‘I give it to you, you give it back. If you give it to me and I’m tired or I’m marked, I give it back. It’s fun to play this way, definitely.”
Lining up opposite USMNT veteran Michael Bradley, a 2017 MVP candidate in Victor Vazquez and one of the top-scoring midfielders in the league this year in Jonathan Osorio, it was a big challenge for their first start together. But they stuck to their roles and for much of the game neutralized the Toronto engine room.
“We knew Toronto is a very good team,” Remedi said. “They have really talented individual players, so our job was to win the ball back and then try and maintain the ball in the middle of the field.”
While their defense was stout, it was their quick passing that Tata Martino singled out for praise in the post-match press conference. Their lack of match time didn’t show with the two combining for one-touch passes in the middle to continuously get out of tight situations.
“Kevin’s a player who has excellent technique,” Remedi said to reporters through a translator minutes later. “For us, it was easy to find each other and play quickly in the midfield and get the ball to our attacking players like Miguel [Almirón].”
“Eric is a good player and we both like the same style,” added Kratz. “We move the ball pretty quickly. That’s what we did especially in the second half. We kept the ball moving from right to left in midfield, not always going back around the center-backs… We closed in on [Giovinco] but also at some point step up to give (Michael) Bradley not the space to play his long balls.”
It’s a lot to absorb for Remedi, who is still feeling out his role on this team just weeks after his arrival. But he was recruited for a reason, and his quality is showing already in just his early time on the field so far.
“I’ve been getting used to it every day based on the training and just trying to get adapted to the new teammates and the new style,” Remedi said. “I think all my teammates have done a great job of welcoming me to the new team.”
While both players showed their disappointment in the final result after the match, it was clear that Tata Martino has yet another strong option at his disposal in the center of midfield.