The day is here. After a lengthy international break, Atlanta United and the New York Red Bulls hope to take the edge in leg one of the Eastern Conference Finals at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Five Stripes historically struggle against RBNY, having never beaten them and losing three of the four all-time meetings against this season’s top regular season team. Could we expect a different look from Tata Martino’s side this time around? Let’s give it our best educated guess.
Here is the definite, surefire lineup for November 25*.
*I’m probably wrong.
Formation: 3-5-2. It gets more and more pointless to predict this aspect of the lineup because Atlanta switches between two formations on a whim throughout a match. On paper though, I’ll say 3-5-2 because that’s what Martino (on paper) implemented the previous two meetings against the Red Bulls this season.
Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan.
Center Back #1: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez.
Center Back #2: Michael Parkhurst.
Center Back #3: Franco Escobar. What’s gone a bit unnoticed the past couple matches is how solid Escobar has been defensively. We’ve seen less of his attempts to aimlessly bomb upfield as was typical when deployed on the right and far more of his defensive prowess as the third center back in recent weeks.
Left Wingback: Greg Garza. What a difference he’s made on the left since returning from injury. The attack has been much more fluid on that side. His biggest hurdle now is to break New York’s counter press in a timely manner and get the ball back into midfield once the ball comes to him.
Right Wingback: Julian Gressel.
Central Midfielder #1: Eric Remedi. Against a side like RBNY that loves to press, you need your most technically gifted midfielders ready to receive the ball from defenders to alleviate pressure and start an attack. Jeff Larentowicz struggled to do that the last time these two teams met, and that’s why I think he’ll start the match on the bench.
Central Midfielder #2: Darlington Nagbe. He picked up a small knock during the second leg against NYCFC, but apparently he’s good to go for Sunday.
Attacking Midfielder: Miguel Almiron. He must be able to regularly receive the ball once his teammates break the initial press and take advantage of any space given to him in the opposing half. It’s absolutely crucial if Atlanta wants to book their spot in the MLS Cup.
Striker #1: Josef Martinez. He’s been rendered ineffective just about every time he plays the Red Bulls. Almiron’s ability to do what is asked of him in the blurb above is what will help Martinez produce.
Striker #2: Tito Villalba. The same that was said for Martinez can be said for Villalba to be honest.
To recap, here’s my projected lineup against the New York Red Bulls.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.