Well, it’s finally here. With the shine of MLS Cup glory largely behind us, the first page of Chapter III of Atlanta United is written tonight. This chapter starts a little differently - a lot differently, in fact - as it takes us to Heredia, Costa Rica for Atlanta’s opening match of the 2019 Concacaf Champions League against Herediano. And with a new coach, a new big-money signing and plenty of ambition surronding it, the hope is that things begin on teh right foot.
The big questions
How will the team turn out in its first competitive match in 2019 and its first under Frank de Boer? While this is a Herediano side it should have success with, Atlanta do have a tendency to play down to its competition at times (see at Houston and at San Jose last year). It can ill afford to come out flat in front of what should be a raucous, heavily pro-Herediano crowd at the Rosabal Cordero and with El Team looking to get on the front foot early.
How quickly can Josef and Pity Martinez build chemistry together? During Friday’s kit reveal in Atlanta, Josef Martinez described his relationship with Miguel Almiron as more of a brotherhood rather than as teammates. I’m interested to see how he and Pity Martinez begin to build a relationship and understanding of what the other is doing, because that will be very key in this match and early on in the MLS campaign.
Predicted Atlanta United lineup at Herediano in Concacaf Champions League
- None of this should be a surprise. Ideally, you’d like to have Franco Escobar at your disposal, but with his injury it gives Miles Robinson a chance to get significant time.
- The graphic above is simply for formational reasons. Don’t be surprised to see Shea drop back into the back three at times to give it more of a four-man look, especially early on as Herediano will look to pressure Atlanta into conceding in an attempt to take the visitors out of it earlier. The wings could also shift in support of Josef Martinez up top.
- Darlington Nagbe, who will be with the team after rumors of his departure turned out to be just that, won’t start. de Boer has said that he will use Nagbe for 30-60 minutes this evening.
Thoughts? Questions? Let me know in the comments.