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Prekrap: Atlanta United vs. Houston Dynamo - A lot on the line in the Peach vs. Orange derby

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Remember when Miguel beat Houston all by himself? I’m just going to think about that all night Wednesday

MLS: Houston Dynamo at Atlanta United FC Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

It’s good to be back. I have to say I did enjoy my time in Central Pennsylvania on the whole. It was professionally fruitful, I rediscovered my love of nature, and I did get to scratch Penn’s Cave off of my bucket list. It’s nice to be somewhere that has a little bit more going on though. The main attraction in Centre County is the Pennsylvania State University Nittany Lions football team. The biggest structure for 3 hours in any direction is the 100,000 person football stadium and everyone you meet will tell you State College becomes the third biggest city in the state on gameday. There are obvious problems with this that aren’t good that we don’t have to go into. Needless to say, the football team wasn’t my thing. So it’s good to be back where the most important day of the year isn’t when everyone wears white to watch sports while I take it as a chance to go to the grocery store while it’s totally empty.

Anyway, Atlanta United will take on the Houston Dynamo and the team has a message to get out to fans.

Wait, that’s not right. Anyway, the keys to the game will be if Ezequiel Barco can get in between the tackles and the ground game can get traction. That’ll open up the passing plays so that Brandon Vazquez can do what he does best - get down field and use his size and speed to get separation off of defenders for a big play. And let’s not forget about the linebackers, they’re going to need to be on their game to shut down Alberth Elis and the big but sneaky good technical Mauro Manotas. At the end of the day, defense wins championships and if it all comes together WE ARE going to win this game.

DAMNIT, ATLANTA UNITED IS A BIG 10 TEAM. WHY DID I MOVE? IT WAS SO EXPENSIVE. THE WINTER WASN’T THAT BAD AND AMERICAN HEROES ALYSSA NAHER AND ALI KRIEGER WENT THERE. WE ARE... AHHHHH, I CAN’T DO IT - no, but really... a white out?

Houston Daymn, this team is under-performing

La Naranja have one of the most talented rosters in MLS. The above mentioned Manotas and Elis are young, tearing up the league, and probably destined for bigger and better things. They have an American named Memo Rodriguez who is doing useful things on the wing and is having a low-key great season for an attacking American player. There’s even a pretty decent no. 10 thrown in there in Tomas Martinez. Defensively, they’ve let in a not great but not terrible 28 goals. Despite that, they sit in 8th in the West on 27 points.

So what gives? Well, they’re awful on the road. Houston has just one win in 8 away matches and just 8 goals scored in those games. OK - good they’re bad on the road, this is fantastic news for Atlanta United and there’s more good news for the Five Stripes. Houston is not a team that’s built to bunker, they don’t really have the central midfielders to shut down the center of the field and the defenders aren’t quite Concacafy enough to make games really ugly in the back, plus Wilmer Cabrera would rather have his team attack anyway.

On top of that, we’ve seen this movie before. In 2017, Houston came to Atlanta, rotated their starters and got kicked out of Georgia Tech like so many engineers only willing to do half the work and treat learning how to build bridges or do nanofabrication like a science experiment involving their parent’s golf cart and a construction barrel. That may bode well for United, but Houston is also coming off of a bad loss against LAFC and needs to start collecting road points if they want to make the playoffs, so whatever expectations there are going into the game have a lot of facets to consider.

Welcome to MLS, where the losses don’t matter and the points are made up

After another triumphant loss thanks to a late goal Atlanta finds itself two wins away from being in first place in the East if Philly loses and the NYRB don’t take more than four points this week. It makes no sense, but applying logic and reason to MLS is a foolish thing to do in most cases so we’ll just let the cosmic forces at work that have created this situation take the wheel. The good news is that I was moving so didn’t watch the Seattle game and can just pretend that it didn’t happen. Apparently, discount bin Maradona made a future USMNT center back and former national team goalie look like they were in the USL so I’ll just schedule my next move for when we play Seattle again, so if you know a good realtor send me their link on MLS.com.

Atlanta will go into the game with some pretty huge problems though. Brek Shea is out for the rest of the year, Florentin Pogba is injured, Michael Parkhurst has struggled, Jeff Larentowicz body slammed everyone he could see against NYRB, Franco Escobar is suspended, and Leandro Gonzalez-Pirez hasn’t decided to be a good center back again. In short, there’s no obvious starter at right or left back... but maybe that won’t stop FdB from lining up Parkhurst-LGP-Robinson-Larentowicz? because I don’t think Julian Gressel does what he wants at right back... unless Mo Adams was brought in for defensive depth.

In any event, the defensive solidity has turned to mush, the attack is working sporadically, but looks better, and maybe Barco will make an appearance and good things will happen. In short, I’m slightly nervous.

This is just an evergreen situation with the entire league

MLS is broken and it’s kinda hilarious so we should probably just give the double to LAFC right now and get it over with.

TL/DR

I want to be able to say that everything will be OK and Houston will keep being terrible on the road, but if there’s been one consistent thing this year for Atlanta United, it’s that the opposite of what should happen does happen so... hold onto your butts. At the least Houston will probably try to open things up so this could be a big fun dumb mess of a game or end 5-1 or 3-3 or the refs could decided it after 5 minutes and it’ll end 1-0. Those are my predictions for the game - BOOK IT.