Cover photo courtesy of Atlanta United FC
In another battle between two united teams, Atlanta and DC will face off in Bobby Dodd stadium. Atlanta will be looking to continue the momentum after a win last week as they return home after more than a month of road games. DC on the other hand is coming off a tie and will be trying to jump start what has been up until now an extremely disappointing season.
Previewing DC United
Courtesy of D.C. United
This was DC United’s lineup for their last game against the New England Revolution. Part of the woes of DC’s season has been the inconsistency of their lineups due to injuries as well as their head coach Ben Olsen seemingly still trying to figure out his best starting eleven. The formation of DC United has also changed from game-to-game but has usually been either a 4-1-4-1, with a single defensive midfielder and a single striker, or a 4-3-3 with two holding midfielders and two wingers. Look for DC to play more of a defensive formation against Atlanta this week in order to try and counter Atlanta’s high powered attack. Their star player Luciano Acosta, is coming back from an injury but is expected to play. He is the only resemblance of attack DC seems to have. With him not being 100% yet, expect DC to sit back and defend. When they do go on attack, DC likes to bring their outside backs forward much like Atlanta does. However, without the speed on the wings, DC relies too heavily on their defenders to get forward and contribute. When they push high it will allow Asad and Villalba to run freely down the wings in transition.
As mentioned before, this is an extremely poor DC United team. And their weaknesses play into Atlanta’s strengths. DC United are currently ranked 20th in possession, last in passing percentage, second to last in long ball accuracy, and 20th in short pass accuracy. Needless to say, their midfield is very weak. This is due to the inconsistency in their lineup and lack of a solid defensive midfielder. This plays perfectly into the strengths of Almiron, Carmona, and Pirez who are very good at intercepting passes. Passing will only get worse when the other team presses, which is something Atlanta United likes to do. It will also be hard for an aging DC United midfield to keep up with Atlanta’s intensity. Expect this to be a rough game for them away from home.
Previewing Atlanta United
This was Atlanta United’s lineup from last week against Real Salt Lake that was able to get a 3-1 win away from home. There was a good chance that United would have started the same lineup as last week if it had not been for the nagging injuries that have been picked up by some players. Larentowicz and Garza and dealing with minor injuries and are expected to sit out this week. This means that Gressel will most likely slot in for Larentowicz which will give Atlanta a more attacking style. The replacement for Garza is a little harder to predict. It could be Mark Bloom coming in for him. Bloom looked good in his one start against Montreal and did well in limiting the chances created by ignacio Piatti. Another option could be Mikey Ambrose who has yet to start a game for Atlanta but has been playing on loan with the Charleston Battery. Although Kenwyne Jones did not have the best game last week, he is probably still Atlanta’s best option at striker, and should have more success against a poor DC United backline and without Chris Schuler jumping on his back the entire game.
This game plays directly into Atlanta’s strengths. They should dominate possession and have plenty of opportunities on goal. The only question will be if they are able to capitalize on their chances. Tito Villalba has been much maligned due to his lack of prowess in the final third. He had many opportunities to seal the game early on in the second half last week but was unable to finish his chances. There is a possibility this happens again against DC’s goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who is one of the up-and-coming USMNT goalkeepers. However, this will most likely be balanced out by the ability of Atlanta to control possession and tire out DC United. The only chance DC has to win is if Atlanta make mistakes. If the centre back pairing of Parkhurst and Pirez continue to play lights out, there should not be any problem for this Atlanta team.
DC United have only scored four goals the entire season. All of their goals have come off of defensive mistakes of the opposing team. If Atlanta United can limit their mistakes, DC will not pose much of a threat. Look for Atlanta to dominate possession and use their pressing style to wear down their opponents. Score prediction: Atlanta United win 3-0.