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MLS Cup: Predicting Atlanta United’s starting lineup vs. Portland Timbers

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The day is here.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at New York Red Bulls Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

You all know what the lineup is going to be at this point, right? I mean I’m surely not breaking any new ground here. Tata Martino said it himself earlier in the week that he won’t change anything and that he loves how the team has come together. Instead of the usual act of trying to convince everyone as to why particular players will start, I’m just going to say nice things about everyone likely to play because ‘Tis the season and ‘Tis the last night we’ll see a lot of these players and coaches in Five Stripes and oh my god I’m going to make myself cry. Alright, let’s just keep this thing going and let me do my dumb lineup shtick.

Here is the definite, surefire lineup for Dec. 8.*

*I’m probably wrong.

Formation: 3-5-2. The 4-3-3 that Martino almost always implemented last season was not going to get us to the MLS Cup alone this season. At its best, it’s a goal-scoring machine that overwhelms tactically unsound clubs into submission. At its worst, organized sides absorb consistent attacking pressure and take advantage of their opportunities on the counter.

All that to say good on Tata to realize some tactical diversity was needed if they wanted to beat the best of the best at a consistent level. Win or lose tonight, he should be remembered as so much more than Atlanta’s first coach. He took a road far less traveled and became a trailblazer for the city and MLS. Gracias, Tata.

Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan. He’s big, he’s bald, he’s a (don’t think I’m allowed to type that word but you know how it goes) wall. Thank you, Brad.

Center Back #1: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez. He’s somehow still the most underrated defender in MLS. The city can only hope that he stays with the club for years to come. Gracias, Leandro.

Center Back #2: Michael Parkhurst. Let’s finally get the captain his Cup. Thank you, Michael.

Center Back #3: Jeff Larentowicz. Exceeding everyone’s initial expectations, he’s one of the most utilized players at the club, proving to be an ironman when most needed. Thank you, Jeff.

Left Wingback: Greg Garza. Although he missed most of the season, Garza has made the attack so fluent on the left side since his return. Thank you, Greg.

Right Wingback: Franco Escobar. He has stepped up his game at the most critical portion of the season and is now a proven force on the right. Gracias, Franco.

Central Midfielder #1: Eric Remedi. Joining us midway through the season, Remedi has proven to be a strong, surprisingly skillful midfielder with a heart of gold. Gracias, Eric.

Central Midfielder #2: Darlington Nagbe. You’re taking on your former club, but they already have a title. Now, it’s Atlanta’s turn. We already know that you’re not going to give the ball up, but if you also wanted to score a dagger that just so happens to suck the life out of the entire Timbers fanbase, well we wouldn’t mind that either. Thank you, Darlington.

Attacking Midfielder: Julian Gressel. In December of 2016, Atlanta United traded Donny Toia to Orlando City in exchange for the 8th overall pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft. That 8th overall pick was Julian. A MLS Rookie of the Year award and 74 appearances later, he’s proven to be one of the most crucial pieces in a squad full of stars. Danke, Julian.

Striker #1: Miguel Almiron. Well, this one’s going to hurt.

Last year, I was in attendance for Atlanta’s U.S. Open Cup match against the Charleston Battery in Kennesaw. An extended weather delay forced the spectators to evacuate the venue for a few hours and most of us just stood under Fifth/Third Bank Stadium’s roof until we were allowed back in. During the delay, there were three kids at a nearby grassy area all wearing Almiron kits attempting to dribble past one another. One child yelled “Miggy!” any time he managed to meg one of his friends. Keep in mind that the rainfall was absolutely torrential. They didn’t care though. They were just so damn happy to be playing with each other, all while trying to re-enact the player whose shirt they were proudly wearing.

Miguel, there was so much hype around you when the club first announced your signing, and yet you still managed to live up to the expectations all while inspiring future Miguel Almiron’s with your world-class play and world-class smile. Please never change, and may all of your career aspirations become a reality. Gracias, Miguel.

Striker #2: Josef Martinez. Where to begin? I mean, what more can be said? You are a damn rockstar, unapologetically passionate about your hunger to score, to win, and to score again. What’s behind your stoic celebration is a man who loves this club’s city and is grateful for the supporters that scream his name when the ball sees the back of the net. Continue to stay true to yourself tonight, and that means continue to score lots and lots of goals. Gracias, Josef.

To recap, here is my projected lineup against the Portland Timbers.

What are your thoughts on tonight, the season, and just everything? Let us know in the comments.