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A way too early Atlanta United lineup prediction for the MLS is Back tournament

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Look, news is slow, so let’s talk about some lineups.

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

The good news is we have a firm MLS restart date of July 8, when the MLS is Back Tournament kicks off in Orlando. The bad news is, we’re still a full month away from Atlanta United taking the field. This means another month of questionable content with a spattering of news. I figured it may be a good time to start discussing lineup options for the team. Even though we’re a month away from Frank de Boer filling out a team sheet, there’s no better fodder for discussion around these parts than hypothesizing some potential lineups. Here’s how I see the lineup shaping up with the interesting options at the team’s disposal.

Unproven Talent or Unproven System?

Any lineup debate regarding Atlanta United is obviously going to center around the striker position. Without Josef Martinez available, there seems to be two clear options for De Boer to choose from. The first would be to play it safe and have either Adam Jahn or JJ Williams playing in a normal target man role. The issue here is that while both players have put up good numbers in the USL, neither have a proven track record of scoring goals in MLS. Does it make sense to rely on one of these unknown quantities to carry the attacking production load?

The alternative is switching the system to a False 9 look to get the most talent on the field. This would see a playmaking midfielder like Pity Martinez, Ezequiel Barco or Matheus Rossetto assume the False 9 spot as a withdrawn forward. This style of play requires precision teamwork and movement to pull off. It also relies on a heavy mentality of build-up play through the middle with virtually no crossing or long balls.

It’s an intricate system to learn and one that would require patience from the manager and players to implement. However, without a true goal scoring threat in the team, it may be the most logical option to ensure the best players get to play.

The New Guy

If I’m Frank de Boer, I put my faith in winter signing Matheus Rossetto to run the attack as the False 9 option. While it’s been very limited, the Brazilian midfielder has shown the ability to be a difference maker in the final third with his precision dribbling and decision making. His quality on the ball in addition to being able to make plays for his teammates suits this role nicely. Perhaps with another playmaking type in the middle, it would free both Pity Martinez and Ezequiel Barco to focus more on their end product. There’s also the case of Manuel Castro, who is still on loan from Estudiantes. We’ve only seen one small cameo from him, but you have to believe he’s still in De Boer’s plans.

Filling Out the XI

The biggest question marks regarding Atlanta’s lineup is obviously in the attack how to replace Josef. The rest of the lineup will sort itself out after you figure out what the attacking corps will look like. Miles Robinson and Fernando Meza have already formed a very nice centerback partnership. Franco Escobar is Franco Escobar at right back. Emerson Hyndman, Eric Remedi and Jeff Larentowicz will likely be fighting for two of three midfield spots, if not all playing together. And of course, Brad Guzan and his new contract will be between the posts for several more years. Left back seems to be the only position yet to be decided. With everyone fully fit, it could be down to George Bello and veteran Edgar Castillo. Personally, I think this Orlando tournament is the perfect chance to give Bello some meaningful minutes to finally see what he can do on a consistent basis.

Here’s how I think the Atlanta United lineup could look on July 12:

I’m interested to see if you agree or not with some of my reasoning. Do you think a False 9 makes sense or would a true striker make more sense? Head down to the comments and flex your Football Manager muscles.