After last Sunday’s emotional night, Atlanta United will look to come down from their proverbial high and produce against Minnesota United on matchday two. With Carlos Carmona’s red card suspension, there is now a void that needs to be filled at holding midfield. So, what will the team’s starting lineup look like against MNUFC? Here is the definite, surefire starting XI for March 12th.*
*I’m probably wrong.
The 4-2-3-1 will continue to be the route that Tata Martino chooses. Perhaps an attack-heavy 4-3-3 would be even more suitable for Atlanta against a team that, quite frankly, doesn’t possess the talent they do. However, I think a 4-2-3-1 is a safe bet to be the base formation, and one that can easily be changed into a 4-3-3 during the match.
Goalkeeper: Alec Kann. He was a mixed bag against RBNY. He made crucial saves and poor mistakes, but the lack of quality depth at keeper allows him to keep the starting job.
Left Back: Greg Garza. The backline was very good throughout the match last Sunday. Keeping that continuity throughout the season is key for any defense.
Center Back #1: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez. He’s a tank, and by the end of the season, will be considered one of the better defenders in MLS. Although he exited the opening match due to a perceived cramp, Pirez should be good to go against Minnesota.
Center Back #2: Michael Parkhurst. Oh captain, my captain.
Right Back: Tyrone Mears. A terrific cross from Mears found Yamil Asad for the first MLS goal in Atlanta United history. That’s exactly what Martino expects from his fullbacks on the attack. Though he has the tendency to panic under pressure and kick the ball out of bounds when the opposing team presses, his ability to find attackers during buildup play will keep Mark Bloom at bay.
Defensive Midfielder #1: Julian Gressel. In what was probably the most surprising inclusion in the starting lineup, Martino showed the utmost amount of trust in a rookie by starting Gressel in the first league match in team history. He joined the counterattack when given a chance, and although he didn’t make a major impact against New York, his offensive skillset is unique compared to the other holding mids.
Defensive Midfielder #2: Jeff Larentowicz. Carlos Carmona is suspended, Larentowicz played the final fifteen minutes of the Red Bulls match, and Chris McCann wasn’t even included on the bench. Perhaps Martino thinks McCann is now fully fit after not playing the final two Carolina Challenge Cup matches, but in my opinion, you aren’t match fit until you get some minutes under your belt. Maybe we see McCann make an appearance off the bench this time around.
Left Midfielder: Yamil Asad. He’s the leading MLS goalscorer in Atlanta United history. Enough said.
Attacking Midfielder: Miguel Almiron. Man, if he had finished that chip over Luis Robles. Alas, he was still the focal point of Atlanta’s attack. His quality and patience around opposing players is exceptional.
Right Midfielder: Hector Villalba. If I could make one request to Martino(because obviously I know way more about coaching tactics than that guy does), it would be to involve Villalba more. Atlanta consistently focused on the left flank against New York. Now maybe that was apart of the gameplan, but Villalba’s pace will ruin the Minnesota backline’s day if utilized properly.
And for goodness sake, include Andrew Carleton on the bench.
Striker: Josef Martinez. He makes up for his 5’9 frame by jumping what seems like three feet in the air. We saw his finishing ability at the CCC, as well as world class touches against RBNY. He can change a match in an instant. I can’t say the same for Kenwyne Jones.
To recap, here’s my projected starting XI against Minnesota United.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.