The last three matches were played in a span of eight days, which made for some interesting lineup inclusions we would not have typically seen (i.e. George Bello). Now that weary legs shouldn’t play a factor, it’s expected that Tata Martino will put out his strongest lineup for a chance to clinch a 2019 CONCACAF Champions League spot and extend Atlanta’s Supporters Shield lead to a massive seven points with just three matches remaining in the regular season. Who and what does that lineup consist of? Let’s give it our best guess.
Here is the definite, surefire lineup for Sept. 30.*
*I’m probably wrong.
Formation: 3-5-2. This gives Atlanta much more defensive stability against a very good possession-oriented team that is playing at home. A 4-3-3 would not be the way to go now.
Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan.
Center Back #1: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez.
Center Back #2: Michael Parkhurst.
Center Back #3: Franco Escobar. Alright, so here’s the rub (I, I have never used that phrase before). Jeff Larentowicz is a good player. That’s never really been in question during his time with Atlanta. In fact, Martino has found ways to incorporate Larentowicz into the lineup even in his unatural position of center back because of how stable he is defensively. However, a more athletic Escobar could fare a lot better against NYRB winger Daniel Royer, who is quietly having a great season. Although Escobar has had poor performances at right back/wingback this year, he appears very comfortable in a center back role that is clearly defined and doesn’t require him to make nearly as many decisions with the ball. This is when he’s most effective.
My biggest fear regarding Larentowicz is I see Royer and Kemar Lawrence exploiting that right side of the backline and Big Red not being able to consistently account for either because of his lack of pace. With that being said, Martino could still very well opt for Larentowicz’s veteran presence as he tends to do.
Left Wingback: Chris McCann. Martino isn’t going to put Bello in the starting lineup against arguably the best pressing team in MLS, right? Right? I mean, I’d like to see it. I just don’t think it happens. He’ll almost certainly go for the veteran presence.
Right Wingback: Julian Gressel.
Central Midfielder #1: Eric Remedi. Again, you won’t find Larentowicz here. Now it’s due to the fact that he’s the least technical between him, Remedi, and Darlington Nagbe. I think Martino will want his best ball-controlling midfielders for this one.
Central Midfielder #2: Darlington Nagbe.
Attacking Midfielder: Miguel Almiron.
Striker #1: Josef Martinez. The Red Bulls are one of just five MLS clubs that Martinez hasn’t scored against. Let’s change that, yeah?
Striker #2: Tito Villalba.
To recap, here’s my projected lineup against the New York Red Bulls.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.