Josef Martinez caught MLS by storm early into the season, scoring five goals in three matches in truly dominant fashion. However, reports are that Martinez will likely miss the first match back from international break due to an injury he picked up while playing for the Venezuela national team. Even if the injury isn’t severe, the club would be wise to not risk him until he’s back to 100% so early in the season. So, how will Atlanta United cope with this short-term loss against the defending MLS Cup Champion Seattle Sounders? Let’s review their options.
Option #1: Kenwyne Jones. This is the first option that comes to mind, and it seems obvious. A true striker who spent time in the English Premier League would be a great fill-in for one match.
However, it’s important to remember that Jones is also currently on international duty with Trinidad & Tobago. He captained the Soca Warriors last Friday against Panama, and played close to the entire match. As captain, it’s very likely he plays tomorrow against Mexico as well.
If Jones does play most of the match, that gives him less than three days to rest up for the Sounders fixture. Three games in one week is certainly not ideal for any player.
Option #2: Yamil Asad. In my personal opinion, this is the likeliest route Tata Martino takes this Friday. Asad saw time at striker against the Charleston Battery at last month’s Carolina Challenge Cup and did quite well. Now perhaps that was just experimental on Martino’s part, but it certainly worked as Asad found the back of the net with a diving header in the 6th minute.
Yes, if Asad plays at striker, that means someone will have to take his spot on the left. Jacob Peterson has been solid for Atlanta United though, coming on as a sub the last two matches and even scoring a goal against Minnesota United. He’s a good replacement for one match and this could open the door for, dare I say, a spot for Andrew Carleton on the bench as the backup winger.
Option #3: Julian Gressel. This likely won’t happen, but Gressel has been in a similar scenario before as he was forced to play as a striker his senior season at Providence due to injuries. He did quite well might I add, tallying fifteen goals and six assists while earning the Golden Boot award during the 2016 NCAA tournament.
With the depth Atlanta United has at midfield, Jeff Larentowicz or Chris McCann could certainly fill Gressel’s usual spot as one of the two starting defensive mids.
Of course playing against collegiate players and professionals is different, but Gressel has shown the ability to adapt before.
Option #4: Bryan Rochez. The Honduran has only practiced with the club for roughly a week, so it would be odd to immediately throw him into a starting lineup. However, Martino must see something in Rochez that no one at Orlando City saw from him over the past two seasons.
Has this been Martino’s master plan all along, bringing in Rochez due to international call-ups? Well, probably not. At this point though, I won’t judge many decisions Martino makes.
Option #5: Brandon Vazquez. The 18-year-old has shown promise with U.S. national youth squads over the last couple of years, but his play didn’t stand out while playing for Atlanta United(and once for the Charleston Battery) during the preseason. The kid still has plenty of time to change that though. Just don’t expect it to be next Friday.
What say you? Who do you think should get the start up top for the Five Stripes?
Who should start at striker for ATLUTD vs. SEA?
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