After an enthralling match in Toronto, Atlanta United return to Canada to play the Montreal Impact, who are still looking for their first win of the season. We learned a lot last Saturday in regards to Atlanta’s preferred tactics in particular situations, as well as the preferred congregation of players to make those tactics work. Will we see any changes to the starting XI in Montreal? Here is the definite, surefire lineup for April 15th.*
*I’m probably wrong.
Formation: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, and I’ll eventually change my prediction. This is the first time I’ll be predicting a 4-3-3 formation as Atlanta’s starting arrangement, rather than a 4-2-3-1. Perhaps this is Tata Martino’s ideal setup while Josef Martinez is out.
Goalkeeper: Alec Kann. Although his clean sheet streak is over, Kann can’t be blamed for either of the goals conceded in Toronto. He seems to be growing more and more comfortable as a starter, and it could be quite an awkward situation when Brad Guzan arrives if Kann continues to play well.
Left Back: Greg Garza. Work rate, work rate, work rate.
Center Back #1: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez. He had a few poor errors last Saturday and tends to go down a little too easily as a center back when an opposing player makes contact. However, he made up for that with one moment of brilliance, springing Villalba in on goal with a perfect lob from one side of the pitch to the other.
Center Back #2: Michael Parkhurst. Is it just me, or does it seem like there’s never much to talk about when it comes to Parkhurst? In fairness, that’s not a bad thing for a center back. The less his name is mentioned, the better.
Right Back: Tyrone Mears.
Center Midfielder #1: Jeff Larentowicz. Watching him slot into a center back role last week showcased both his versatility and Martino’s ability to change tactics on a whim. Larentowicz’s veteran presence has really helped early in the season.
Center Midfielder #2: Carlos Carmona.
Attacking Midfielder: Julian Gressel. The Toronto match was by far the worst of his short MLS career, but Gressel still has an uncanny attacking instinct that Martino loves.
Left Winger: Miguel Almiron. Although I prefer him as a CAM, I think Martino will keep Miguelito on the left until Martinez returns.
Right Winger: Jacob Peterson. Man, I’m really nervous about this one. It looks like Yamil Asad will serve a one-match ban for his controversial red card in Toronto. Normally I would be pretty certain that Peterson replaces Asad in this situation, but Peterson himself is coming off a slight ankle injury that kept him out of last week’s match. Is it still an issue for him? Is it worse than anticipated? Will he be available this week? ANSWER ME, JACOB.
For now, I’ll stick with this prediction and pray.
Striker: Hector Villalba. Well, I’m starting to think Kenwyne Jones is going to struggle for starting time under Martino. Tata is married to his system, and his system doesn’t include tall, slower strikers who hold play up. It’s unfortunate considering Jones has actually played pretty well as a sub the past two matches, but Martino doesn’t appear to be budging.
If there is one glimmer of hope for Jones starting on Saturday, it would have to include Peterson not playing due to his ankle. Asad is also out with his suspension, and Andrew Carleton is currently in Florida for U.S. U-18 national team duties. That would mean there is zero winger depth for Atlanta United against the Impact. So, Villalba would be forced to play on the wing, right? Jones would then have to be the striker...right?
I guess we’ll see what happens. I’ll still put my money on Villalba up top.
To recap, here’s my projected starting XI against the Montreal Impact.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.