Disclaimer: the shape that Atlanta United shows in its lineup graphic probably won’t matter. It’s going to change - and change quite a bit. You’re definitely going to see players shift around and find themselves in spots they may not normally play.
Having said that, we do get some bad news and good news ahead of Saturday’s matchup against Columbus Crew SC. The bad news: Atlanta will be without Pity Martinez, who is still nursing a hamstring injury sustained during the international break, as well as George Bello, who is reported as “week-to-week” with a groin injury. (They will certainly be available for selection on April 13 against the New England Revolution.) The good news is that Franco Escobar, who played nearly 60 minutes for ATL UTD 2 at Charlotte Independence a week ago, is available and should be in the XI against Columbus. But it does leave other questions to be answered.
Predicted Atlanta United lineup vs. Columbus Crew SC
- Being a defensive minded coach, I feel as if Jeff Larentowicz and Eric Remedi are Frank de Boer’s preferred midfield pairing. While we did see Darlington Nagbe at left wingback to allow for that pairing, the problem is that...well...Nagbe isn’t a wingback.
- Escobar’s return means a couple of options for de Boer to consider on the right side of the field. With the Argentinian at RWB where Julian Gressel has featured this season, the natural response is likely to slot Gressel up front along with Ezequiel Barco and Josef Martinez. My preference in this case would be to see Barco then tuck in behind Martinez in a more 10-style type of role on the attack, which may force Shea to play further up on the left and Escobar to drop back into the defense to give the formation a 4-2-3-1 look. (Remember what I said about shape?) Of course, that leaves Tito Villalba as the odd man out unless Villalba starts for Barco on the left, meaning more attacking along both wings and more crosses in the final third.
Thoughts? Questions? Let me know in the comments.