Cover photo courtesy of the Atlanta Journal Constitution
After two starkly different results, Atlanta United and New York City FC will matchup on Sunday, May 7th at Yankee Stadium. Atlanta United did not look like themselves in their 3-1 defeat at home to DC United while NYCFC are coming off an impressive road victory against the Columbus Crew. It will be interesting to see how the Atlanta United players deal with the much small field at Yankee Stadium as it is extremely narrower than even Bobby Dodd. This might make for more quick passes as players look to create space on what will be an unusual surface.
Courtesy of Spectrum TV
This was the starting lineup for New York City FC last week against the Columbus Crew (their starting goalie is Sean Johnson who is not pictured in this image). However, you will notice two specific names that are not there. NYCFC was missing one of its star players and reigning MLS MVP David Villa last week due to an illness. Expect him to be back against Atlanta United. The other name missing from the starting lineup is Andrea Pirlo, who is a world renowned midfielder who can put any pass on the money directly to one of his teammates. Pirlo, unlike Villa, was not sick last week, or injured, and was dropped from the lineup due to his poor form and lack of speed and endurance in the midfield. Expect him to remain on the bench as NYCFC will need speed to counteract Atlanta’s speed in transition.
New York City FC is not the best team Atlanta has faced this season, but they certainly pose many problems. First, with the return of David Villa to the lineup, their attack should be a huge problem for United. Atlanta has yet to face a striker who is as good of a finisher and off the ball mover as Villa. He like to find pockets of space in between the defenders to run into and is skillful enough to maneuver around players and find the back of the net. As seen in the game against DC United, Atlanta’s backline can get extremely stretched and this will pay into Villa’s hands.
Another key to NYCFC’s game is possession. They complete more passes in their defensive half of the field than any other team in MLS. They are extremely good at passing the ball around the backline, looking for holes in the opposing team’s midfield. Another player that Atlanta must look out for is Maxi Moralez. Moralez is a player much like Sebastian Giovinco and Luciano Acosta, two players United had a very hard time dealing with. If Atlanta allows Moralez the space to run with the ball, he could very well cut through Atlanta’s midfield and defense much like Acosta did last week.
Atlanta United Preview
Courtesy of Atlanta United FC
This was the starting lineup for Atlanta United’s underwhelming performance against DC United last week. As has become a recurring theme for this team, the lineup will need to change again as Yamil Asad has picked up a one game suspension for throwing an elbow in the match last week. With Jacob Peterson still recovering for an injury and Andrew Carleton still away on international duty, it is most likely that Miguel Almiron will slide over to the wing as he has done in the past. To fill his spot in the midfield, Gressel could fill in, or Kevin Kratz could make his first start of the season. This will likely depend on the health of Jeff Larentowicz. If he is back and is ready to play, he can pair up with Carmona in defensive midfield. If this happens, Tata Martino could go with Gressel, who has looked poor the past couple games, or Kratz who has looked good coming off the bench but has yet to be tested with a starting position. Gressel is the more probable to start as Martino is not a manager who likes to switch things up.
As is was with last week too, Atlanta must limit their defensive mistakes against a high powered NYCFC attack. There is no doubt that players like Villa and Moralez will get their chances at goal, so it is important that Atlanta does not give them any easy chances. Pirez and Parkhurst must have a better game than last week if Atlanta has any chance of coming away from this game with points.
In the attack, Atlanta must capitalize on their chances. Sean Johnson is another quality goalie and it will be very hard to get anything past him. While NYCFC does not have a very strong defense, this could be a mute point if Atlanta can not get the ball in the net. They cannot become one dimensional like they did against DC United. This will be up to Almiron to provide for the other players. If he can do that, Atlanta could get their chances at goal where it will be up to players like Jones and Villalba to finish.
Something that Atlanta could exploit is the transition game. If they are able to press high up the field as they normally do, and get New york to turn the ball over high up the field, they should be able to use their speed to get past their defense.
As is typically ture, on paper Atlanta United has the skill and players to compete with NYCFC. The question will be if they are able to execute. This has the chance to be a high scoring game with two good attacking teams. Score prediction: 3-3 tie.