After an emphatic win against fellow expansion side Minnesota United, Atlanta will look to continue their winning ways against a Chicago Fire club that has looked good early on. The return of Carlos Carmona from suspension means there’s another option at starting midfielder for United. So, what will the team’s starting lineup look like against Chicago? Here is the definite, surefire starting XI for March 18th.*
*I’m probably wrong.**
**I don’t mean to brag, but I got the lineup right last week. Let’s keep this hot streak going.
Formation: Tata Martino will continue to implement a 4-2-3-1. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Goalkeeper: Alec Kann. In my opinion, Kann did very well against MNUFC. Sure he still has a case of the butterfingers from time to time, but who wouldn’t in last week’s conditions?
Left Back: Greg Garza. His performance last match earned him a spot in the MLS Team of the Week.
Center Back #1: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez. One aspect of Martino’s system that has become a bit of a staple very early in the season is the exceptional passing from the backline to release attackers. Pirez does that better than any other defender.
Center Back #2: Michael Parkhurst. He’s going to score at home this season, and Coca-Cola will fall from the sky when it happens.
Right Back: Tyrone Mears. He’s improved consistently from the preseason to the Minnesota match. Mears and Parkhurst already seem to have a strong chemistry on the right side of the backline. That could be their experience, or just the fact they haven’t faced a good left winger yet.
Defensive Midfielder #1: Julian Gressel. He had a couple good runs against Minnesota, but his final touch let him down on a few occasions when he wasn’t able to find his teammates on the counter. That’ll come with time though, and he still managed to notch an assist on Miguel Almiron’s first goal. It’s ultimately about capitalizing on more of the opportunities presented to him. Still, Gressel is helping this club in ways no one could’ve expected his rookie season.
Defensive Midfielder #2: Carlos Carmona. Let’s be honest, Carmona is fortunate to have only received a one-match ban for his actions against the New York Red Bulls. At the end of the day though, Carmona has quality that Chris McCann and Jeff Larentowicz don’t.
A lot of people have been calling for McCann to get the nod, but I just don’t see him gaining a starting spot unless Carmona’s disciplinary issues become a norm.
Left Midfielder: Andrew Carlehahaha just kidding. Yamil Asad.
In all seriousness, Jacob Peterson’s goal against Minnesota probably won’t help Carleton get on the bench any quicker.
Attacking Midfielder: Miguel Almiron. That is all.
Right Midfielder: Hector Villalba. Tito has struggled so far. It may be due to the narrowness of the pitches he’s played on, but Villalba was certainly forcing things against Minnesota. Perhaps he was just trying to join in on the Designated Player party that Almiron and Josef Martinez were having, but history shows that players are better off letting the game come to them than the other way around. Hopefully someone tells him that.
Striker: Josef Martinez. Can we take a second to reflect on just how fortunate we are to have Martinez? Think about it. The main reason he couldn’t find any playing time at Torino was because of the load of talent ahead of him at striker. I mean, Andrea Belotti, Adem Ljajic, Iago Falque and Juan Iturbe is quite the list.
Also take into consideration that Atlanta United would have never signed Martinez if the deal for Oscar Romero went through. That was a blessing in disguise.
I know it’s still early, but Martinez could make a case for top scorer of MLS by the end of the season.
To recap, here’s my projected starting XI against the Chicago Fire.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.