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Atlanta United at Minnesota United: What to watch for

Frio, pace, Minnesota’s defense, and replacements

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Atlanta United FC Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Soccer’s second United takes on the league’s third United in the first ever United Derby in MLS history. There’s a lot at stake in this game. For one thing, loser has to drop United and go by the name of the NHL team that moved out of their state for the rest of the season. Minnesota North Stars FC has a nice ring to it.

More importantly, nobody wants to start the season with two losses. Atlanta will look to steal a win but an away point in MLS is also a good result. The club will have its work cut out for it though with the positives and negatives from Sunday being hashed and rehashed across the MLS-o-sphere after what was a pretty impressive 75 minutes. For their part Minnesota looked like it had a lot to work on after losing their first game 5-1.

‘Mucho Frio’

Or is it ‘muy frio?’ It’ll be somewhere in the area of 20 degrees and it might snow at kick off which is why Minnesota is not nicknamed the Sunshine State. The temperature and possible snow will be a challenge for some Atlanta players, and no doubt some Minnesota players, and the legendary MLS Orange Visibility Ball may make an appearance.

Either Atlanta United will look like I-285 during the Snowmageddon or they will make a few adjustments here or there, add an insulating layer of clothing, and adjust to the conditions. While it may be challenging, it isn’t like our American players are strangers to bad conditions and our international players are from countries with fairly cold weather, perhaps not Josef Martinez but he did play in the northern reaches of Italy, so in the end the conditions will be something both teams have to deal with.

Can Atlanta pick its spots?

Last week, the Five Stripes fed off of the energy of the crowd, the moment, and tried to take advantage of New York who looked a little hesitant to start things off and ran all over the Red Bulls in the first half. That said, Atlanta failed to exploit putting New York on its heels and looked a little over excited while failing to take advantage of their fast play for the first twenty minutes. New York came out more aggressive in the second half and nearly had a chance immediately after kickoff. By the 70th minute Atlanta started looking leggy and we all know what happened in the last twenty minutes of the match.

A key to this game will be if Atlanta can pick their spots and not go 110% every time they try to strike in transition and not run out of gas when they should be looking to close the game out. That said, Loons keeper John Alvbage is not Luis Robles, who for me was New York’s man of the match and kept the Red Bulls from being down two or three goals at the half, so if Atlanta does have chances they should have a better conversion rate on their shots.

Will Minnesota United work out their defense?

Going down 2 goals in the first half is not good, shipping three more while trying to press for an equalizer after getting one back is worse. While Atlanta came out too fast and couldn’t capitalize on its opportunities, Minnesota didn’t defend well at any point in their game. Somehow scoring the first goal in MLS history for the club just led to more problems. Minnesota pressed for an equalizer leaving them open to the Timbers cutting down their hopes for a point by going on a three goal rampage to end the game. This seems inevitable when you consider that Heath wants to play attacking soccer with a defense that was exposed in the final minutes of the match. Atlanta has a killer transition and if they can take advantage of Minnesota like Portland did it could be a long day for the Loons.

Who will replace Carlos Carmona?

After fulfilling the dreams of a long list of MLS players and kicking Felipe late in the game against New York, Carlos Carmona will be suspended with a red card this week. Chris McCann and Jeff Larentowicz saw playing time in preseason but McCann did not make Tata Martino’s 18 for the inaugural game. Perhaps Kevin Kratz will get a start after not playing last week. Carmona was a strong in midfield and helped Atlanta keep possession and turn the ball around quickly on transition. Whoever coach Martino picks will have his work cut out for him.