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Atlanta United at Miami FC: What to watch for

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The Five Stripes take on the best team in the NASL

MLS: D.C. United at Atlanta United FC Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The hunt for silverware is on. Golden spikes are cool, guitars are great, but taking home a trophy would be even better. The Atlanta United Football Club will travel to Miami to take on the Miami Football Club on Wednesday night in hopes of doing just that. But getting there will not be easy and the demented fiends who make the MLS schedule haven’t helped anything. MLS is allegedly a unprofitable league so perhaps nobody at the league office owns a calendar, but scheduling a match Saturday between the 5th round of the Open Cup and then also making teams play on the 4th of July is borderline unacceptable.

Anyway, here’s what to watch for...

Chris and Kratz take Miami

The schedule will leave Tata Martino needing to make some tough decisions leading into the Gold Cup break. However, knowing he can rest his players for two weeks after next Tuesday may lead Tata to push them a little harder than he normally would. On top of that, United has shown that the reserves are more than capable to turning in good performances.

Brandon Vazquez has two goals and two assists across all competitions this season and can play at striker or right wing. At seemingly anywhere in the back line both Mark Bloom and Anton Walkes have shown that they can put in a shift in defense and thrive in difficult situations. Kevin Kratz is another player who can be counted on when needed and Chris McCann played a key role in sealing the win against the Charleston Battery. These players skill and versatility speaks to how well the roster was assembled.

Oh, we also have a 17 year old wunderkid hanging around somewhere.

On the sneak, Miami bringin heat for real

As Will Smith said...

Miami FC is a good soccer team. They have 30 points in the North American Soccer League and are seven points clear in first place. Last weekend they came back from giving up a goal in the 6th minute to the New York Cosmos and won 2-1. If there is a lower division team that is built to beat Atlanta United in the Open Cup, it is this one. With their win on Saturday, Miami is unbeaten in their last 13 games. That includes thumping the Orlando City Soccer Club 3-1 two weeks ago.

As the ULF Pod noted last week, the team is talented all across the field and claims that team could compete in MLS and not finish last. Last week’s episode breaks down the roster pretty extensively and mentions that forward Vincenzo Rennella and midfield engine Richie Ryan are both capable of earning the NASL Player of the Year award. Another player starring in Miami is former Georgia Revolution, Atlanta Silverbacks, and NYCFC player Kwadwo Poku. The holding midfielder, who never broke through in New York and fell out of favor with coach Patrick Vieria, has found a home in Miami and is proving his quality week in and week out.

The team is led by Alessandro Nesta, the Italian international who won the World Cup in 2006 and had over 400 starts in Serie A before moving to the Montreal Impact in 2012.

Road mentality

Who knows what the atmosphere in Miami will be like. The team is averaging about 5,000 fans a game but this will be a weeknight. That said, anyone who was at the 2014 Open Cup match between the Atlanta Silverbacks and Real Salt Lake knows that a great home atmosphere can help minnows become giant killers. As mentioned above, Miami are no minnows and Atlanta will have their work cut out for them.

It has been brought up time and again but the team needs to find the mental edge in games like this. They nearly lost or drew to the Charleston Batter because of defensive errors and needed late heroics by Josef Martinez and Brandon Vazquez to win the game. Either something will have to change tactically, not likely, or United will have to find the intangible reserves that have eluded them on the road as of late to come away with a win tomorrow.