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Prekrap: Atlanta United at Colorado Rapids

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Panning for gold in the western hills

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United goes into the next match in a familiar position, trying to bounce back from a loss to DC United. At least in the most recent meeting, DCU had their best lineup, a player that DSS spent months convincing readers that Atlanta United didn’t need, and featured a left winger with nine goals and five assists. All together, it was the team’s worst loss since the first match of the season and a lost opportunity to pull ahead in the Supporters’ Shield race. Luckily, they get to play against the Colorado Rapids as the Western Conference team enters their third season of rebuilding their team.

Gold don’t bust

The last time Atlanta Untied took on the Colorado Rapids it took the best game Tim Howard has had since the 2014 World Cup to keep the best stricker in MLS out of the net for 67 minutes. It was his best performance until getting a tattoo on his butt earlier this year. Somehow Howard’s performances in net helping the Rapids achieve a robust 6-6-15 record as the ineptitude of the San Jose Earthquakes is the only thing keeping them out of last place in the West has earned him the right to join Bleacher Report to commentate on Champions League games. For 2.6 million dollars a year and 45 allowed goals on the season, he’s apparently given a lot of leeway.

Things have turned around somewhat for the Rapids. Of those six wins, two have come since trading for Kellyn Acosta at the end of July. Acosta was one of the more hyped players in the USMNT pool until a tough end of 2017 saw him fall out of favor in Dallas. Since being traded to the Rapids, Acosta has been unleashed as an attacking player rather than being played in defense for some reason or as a holding midfielder in Texas. The results have been favorable with him scoring two goals and getting two assists in six starts.

Aside from Howard and Acosta, the Rapids are what you would expect from a team with six wins that gave up six goals to Real Salt Lake two matches ago. They have no real identity, tactical consistency is a complete mystery to the team, a best 11 is non-existent and their best player may very well be Edgar Castillo. That said, they are tall and Atlanta has given up a few goals this year on set pieces as the back post continues to be a difficult part of the field to cover for the team.

Rocky mountain redemption

As for the away side, suburban Denver offers a new challenge for the Five Stripes. The mile high city features advanced altitude that could somewhat slow down Atlanta’s attack. That said, the thin air in Salt Lake City didn’t have a huge impact on United last year as the team came home with a 3-1 win in their only trip to the mountains in franchise history. Still, this is a game Atlanta United can win and needs to win in order to keep up in the Supporter’s Shield race. The Rapids are a terrible team and with three of the next four games away from home, it is a key chance to pick up points as the season winds down.

For Atlanta to do that, it should be fairly simple. Colorado is bad at defending and bad at scoring as their -19 goal differential can attest to. As long as the team can generate and finish their chances, Josef Martinez should be able to beat Tim Howard. As long as the defense can stay cohesive and aware, especially on set pieces, Atlanta should be able to come out of this game with three more away points. The key word in all of that is should.