Previewing Atlanta United vs Real Salt Lake

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Cover photo courtesy of the Atlanta journal constitution

 

Two sixth placed teams meet in week seven of the MLS regular season. Atlanta United looks to rebound after a disappointing and controversial game against the Montreal Impact while Real Salt Lake will look to keep the winning streak under new head coach Mike Petke going. Expect this to be a hard fought physical game as we have come to expect.

 

Previewing Real Salt Lake

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Courtesy of Altitude Sports

 

This was the lineup newly minted head coach Mike Petke trotted out again the Colorado Rapids last week. The lineup for Salt Lake has fluctuated a lot during the season due to injuries so it is a little hard to predict what will be on the field against Atlanta United. However, expect the same formation to be used on Saturday. A player to watch out for who was not in the lineup last week is MLS veteran Joao Plata. Pata is an attacking midfielder who could also be used as a secondary sticker right behind Movsisyan who is their target striker. Under Petke, Plata has been freed of his defensive duties and is now able to roam the attacking third and create chances. Salt Lake also have a physically strong defense and are capable of knocking around opposing attacking players. They are not afraid to foul if an opponent gets behind them which might mean there are a high amount of fouls this game. With a new head coach they are now looking to build out of the back with short passes much like Atlanta tries to do. They will also have a significant height advantage against Atlanta which will come into play on set pieces. Their goalkeeper, U.S. international Nick Rimando, is one of the best keepers in the league and it is extremely hard to score on him. He has the potential to make multiple incredible saves in a single game.

 

However, there are some weaknesses in the team that Atlanta will need to key in on. First, their defense, either due to a lack of speed or communication, are extremely easy to spread out which will leave acres of space in-between center backs for players like Almiron and Gressel to run into. On a more attacking note, almost all of their chances and goals this season have come from crosses or shots from outside the box. Knowing this will allow Atlanta to prepare their defense and keep RSL to their one-dimensional style. A player like Carmona will need to know to step out and not give any of their players space to shoot and Atlanta’s outside backs will need to stay wide to prevent crosses into Movsisyan who has not been effective without service.

 

Atlanta United Preview

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Courtesy of Atlanta United FC

 

This was the starting lineup for Atlanta United against the Montreal Impact. Kenwyne Jones made his first start of the season and looked good in spots but it was clear there was a lack of speed with him as he could not make the slashing runs past defenders as Josef Martinez could. However, he did score so it is likely Martino will reward him with his second start against Real Salt Lake. Yamil Asad will be coming back from a one game suspension after receiving a red card at Toronto two weeks ago. Yamil will probably slot right back into his spot at left wing which will move Almiron from the wing into a central attacking role which is where he thrives. The question then becomes which of the three other midfielders will have to be dropped to the bench. It could be Gressel as he has started every game and might need a rest. It seems more likely that the man to be dropped will be Larentowicz. We know that Martino really likes to play Carmona so it would be surprising if he is benched. Benching Larentowicz and leaving in Carmona and Gressel will give Atlanta the most attacking prowess which will best fit the system they try to play. Mears, who missed last week due to ankle injury is back practicing so he will probably start at right back again.

 

As mentioned before, Salt Lake will try to build out of the back. This will allow the faster and more skillful Atlanta players to press high up the field and win the ball. With the outside backs in Mears and Garza bombing up the field, it will severely stretch the RSL defense so that Kenwyne will have space to hold up the play and send other player through in on goal. This will probably be Atlanta’s best bet at scoring as they are overmatched in the size and physicality department making it unlikely they will score on set pieces or crosses. As usual it will be up to Atlanta to execute their game plan and if players can do that, and not get red carded, it is Atlanta’s game to lose once again.
Score Prediction: Like I said last week, I think we can expect great things from this Atlanta United team, especially against mediocre teams like Real Salt Lake. Atlanta’s players and strategy are great counters to what RSL want to do. Atlanta will win 2-0.