Cover photo courtesy of Atlanta United FC
Atlanta United’s third away game of a four-game road stretch comes against the Montreal Impact. The Impact are coming off a 2-0 loss at the LA Galaxy while Atlanta drew 2-2 against Toronto FC. Both teams will be looking to win after dropping points last week.
Montreal Impact Preview
Courtesy of Spectrum Sportsnet
This was the Impact’s starting lineup from last week against the LA Galaxy. However we already know that there will be a couple changes to it. Marco Donadel will miss the game while serving a one-match suspension for receiving a controversial red card against the Galaxy. Second, the Impact’s star player, Ignacio Piatti is expected to return against Atlanta after suffering an injury a few weeks ago. Piatti is the key to this Impact team. Without him, their passing has looked slow and they have been overrun in the midfield. He is also their main chance creator and in his absence they have struggled to score goals. Piatti is known for dribbling at defenders, drawing them towards him, then distributing the ball to open teammates. If he plays, the Atlanta defense will need to stick to their marks and not get sucked inside and leave the flanks open.
Another weakness for Montreal is their lack of speed in the midfield and in defense, especially on the right hand side. The defense was getting left in the dust by Galaxy players last week, even by U.S. international Jermaine Jones who is not known for his pace. Atlanta United’s wealth of speed should pose problems for this defense. Players like “Tito” Villalba and Miguel Almiron should find it easy to find space in between the midfield and the defense and then play through balls to attacking players.
If Piatti does not play, the responsibility of chance creation will fall on the speedy winger Dominic Oduro. He has the ability to fly past opposing players and will look to do that against Atlanta and then cross the ball into the box. Atlanta’s outside backs in Mears and Garza have to be positioned well and stay wide or they could get beat. Oduro also might expose the three-man backline that Atlanta sometimes uses. When Atlanta has the ball, they like to push Garza and Mears high up the field and drop a defensive midfielder, usually Larentowicz into defense. If Oduro can get the ball in transition, he could be able to get pass the three man defense. Besides that, Montreal might not have many options.
Atlanta United Preview
Courtesy of Atlanta United FC
This was the starting lineup that played Toronto FC to a draw last week. Will Yamil Asad’s highly disputed red card, another player will need to slot into his position. The question then becomes will it be Villalba moving to the wing to make space for Kenwyne Jones to get his first start up top, or will it be Jacob Peterson, who is coming off an injury. It appears as if Tata Martino does not like the idea of Jones starting. He seems to like to bring him on as a late sub or as a game changer in order to slow the game down. So it is unlikely that Jones will start. The next obvious choice would be Jacob Peterson who played in the game against the Seattle Sounders. However, Peterson hurt his ankle in practice leading up to last week’s game. He is back now and is currently listed as questionable. It seems more likely to me that Peterson would get the start with Kenwyne Jones getting subbed in for Peterson and Villalba moving to the wing if he cannot play the full 90 minutes. Martino has showed that he likes consistency and only switching in Peterson for Asad would keep the lineup as consistent as possible.
Atlanta’s strategy has remained the same throughout the season. Press high up the field, get forward quickly and build out of the back. Look for this to stay the same against the Impact. The Impact’s midfield is slow and it is easy to find holes in between players because they are very spread out. This plays right into Miguel Almiron’s strengths as he is extremely good at finding space in the midfield. While Almiron finds those pockets of space. Villalba can make run past the slow defense and be one-on-one with the Impact’s keeper. Minus Piatti, there is not much of threat from Montreal going forward. This should be a relatively comfortable game for Atlanta’s defense which will let players like Carmona push forward more often.
I do not see this game being a loss. The draw against Toronto showed that Atlanta is capable of going to other team’s stadiums and producing. This Montreal team is no Seattle or Toronto. It is time to set high expectations for Atlanta United.
Score prediction: 3-1 Atlanta United win.