Tomorrow marks another historic day in the life of our favorite club as Atlanta United FC takes on Chattanooga FC in a preseason friendly at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga. Here are five things to keep an eye on tomorrow as you watch:
How quickly do we pass and move?
Tactically, anything that happens tomorrow needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt. Injuries, recent signings, and international duty have affected Atlanta’s preseason camp to various degrees. Players like Josef Martinez and Carlos Carmona are recent arrivals. Greg Garza has missed time attending to USMNT duty, and some guys have been banged up and missed time. Hell, Jacob Peterson even missed time for the birth of his daughter in late January. And similarly, the squad is in its infant stages as well. The amount of time Tata has been able to work with the squad is miniscule.
For this reason, he’s likely to experiment with some varying tactical deployments to see how he can get the squad playing in the style he wants. We’ve said it over and over, but the formation a team deploys is merely a means to execute a coach’s philosophy. With this in mind, I’m less concerned with who is on the field together and where they are playing. Instead, I’ll be focusing on how quickly we move the ball. This will give us a sense of how cohesive the unit is. And at this point, to be perfectly honest, my expectations are low. And that’s okay! There will be rough patches and it will take some time for this team to start firing on all cylinders.
The away fans
It’s the first time fans can buy a ticket to see the team play, so I’m intrigued to see how many end up making the short trip. Will the various supporters groups be representing? Will there be a trial run for the myriad of chants being published by these groups? I’m interested to see how many Atlanta fans show up.
Finley stadium is a turf field, so the condition of it will be fine, but how will our players react? As we know, the team will need to be ready to play on turf as several MLS venues, including our own for the second half of this season and beyond. I’m guessing that playing preseason on this type of surface was intentional, as many players who’ve only played on grass can have some issues when judging bounces and spin off the synthetic surface.
With this being the first preseason game, I’m assuming we’ll see a full rotation of the outfield players during the game. But how many minutes some players get will be revealing. There are fitness issues surrounding some players in the squad. There’s been speculation as to how well Kenwyne Jones can hold up. New signing Carlos Carmona has only recently returned to action with the Chilean squad since his injury that held him out for most of last season with Atalanta in Serie A. Basically, the players who are out there the longest are not necessarily the ones we’ll see in the XI on March 5, but they’re probably the players who are in the best physical condition at this moment.
Will we see Andrew Carleton, Chris Goslin, or Brandon Vazquez? I think we’ll see Vazquez and Carleton play in the game. Goslin seems to be less talked about – partially because he plays a less-glamorous position at DM – but also because he simply looks like he needs more physical development before becoming a contributor. Carleton was signed to much fanfare, and while he also needs to fill out physically, I think Tata will be more likely to throw him in there and see how he reacts. Vazquez will see plenty of time, I’d assume, as Tata needs to see which of his forwards will grasp the opportunity to play as a true #9 in the red and black this season.
Enjoy it y’all!