It seemed like Atlanta United’s season hit a low point last week, but that is yet to be seen. “It gets worse,” said Jeff Larentowicz after Atlanta United’s appalling 4-2 defeat at the hands of Nashville SC. We’ll see if the veteran’s disturbing warning comes to pass this weekend. The Five Stripes host Inter Miami Saturday evening, its third match in a little more than a month against the expansion side. The good guys are yet to register a win in the series.
It may not seem possible, but somehow Atlanta United is still in a playoff spot, albeit the 10th and final one. It doesn’t seem likely to stay there, unfortunately. The four teams below Atlanta, one of which is Miami, are all within three points of jumping the club. That makes this weekend’s game all the more important should Atlanta want to keep its postseason streak alive. But even so, the many weaknesses the Five Stripes have displayed so far are making that seem less and less likely no matter what happens Saturday.
Interim head coach Stephen Glass doesn’t have the luxury of just one issue to focus on and hopefully fix. Instead, the whole pitch seems to be an area of fragility for the Five Stripes. A meager goal tally of just five in its last five games may seem bad, but even worse is the minimal impact offensive players have showed, who have notched just three goals all season. Only one was from open play rather than a cross or set piece, so chance creation is hard to come by. Marcelino Moreno will change that, but until he arrives, Atlanta’s midfield will remain largely non-existent. As for defense, Fernando Meza’s possible return should reduce the number of individual mistakes committed by the backline, but it won’t fix near as much as is ideal.
Like the last time they met Atlanta, Inter Miami finds itself in 26th place across MLS. Something else that hasn’t changed is the expansion team’s weaknesses. It’s the same story over and over again for the Floridian side. Goals have been hard to come by, as Miami has been shutout in three of its last five. Julian Carranza seemed to find a breakthrough when he notched a brace in August, but has since fallen off the radar. That leaves only Lewis Morgan and Rodolfo Pizarro as the main threats, but those two were enough to down Atlanta last time out. The defense, on the other hand, has been solid. Miami has never conceded more than two goals a game, while each of its losses have been by a single goal.
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: Atlanta United 0-2 Inter Miami
My optimism has run out after last week’s result. Although Ezequiel Barco’s unfortunate double penalty miss played a deciding factor in the original loss to Miami, I see no reason why that result won’t be replicated Saturday. Miami will pick up the three points after a largely uneventful ninety minutes, and bring itself level to Atlanta in the table.