Atlanta United continued its curious tradition of losing 3-0 in the CCL quarter-final first leg Tuesday, this time to the Philadelphia Union. But the Five Stripes are already looking to bounce back with a visit to Gilette Stadium and the New England Revolution in Week 3.
The Revs were one of the surprises of last season. Despite finishing eight in the Regular Season and making the Play-in Round of the postseason, Bruce Arena’s side lasted all the way until the Eastern Conference Final. New England knocked out Philadelphia (the one seed) and Orlando (fourth seed) before falling to the eventual champs Columbus. The attacking trio of Carles Gil, Gustavo Bou, and Adam Buksa proved their DP tags in that playoff run, but the expectations for 2021 are a full season of quality rather than only a four-game stretch.
And New England as a whole looks suited for a successful season. Along with keeping last season’s core intact, several very enticing signings were brought in. Arnor Traustason was brought in to reinforce the attack and balance Gil on the left flank. Barcelona-academy product Wilfrid Kaptoum came in under the radar but has the potential to make the Revs midfield his own, alongside the experienced Matt Polster. The biggest question mark in Foxborough is whether Carles Gil can stay healthy. With the Spaniard fit, New England is capable of making serious noise in MLS, but on the flip side, his absence is heavily felt. The Revs are undefeated two games into 2021 (2-2 draw vs Chicago, 1-0 win vs DC) and Gil has played a major role. He averages 5.5 shots created per game and leads New England in touches in the final third. Gil generally operates on the right flank but cuts inside, so George Bello and Miles Robinson will have their hands full. Shut down Gil, and you shut down New England.
Predicted Starting XIs
With the second leg against Philly coming three days after kickoff in New England, Gabriel Heinze may opt to slightly rotate. Franco Ibarra struggled at right back in the first leg and Anton Walkes could slot back into the XI with Brooks Lennon still recovering. Santiago Sosa has played every minute so far while Josef Martinez went the full ninety Tuesday. Ibarra and Erik Lopez (the younger Lopez) have yet to get a real opportunity in their ideal positions, but Saturday is a good time as any to give them the starting nod.
Prediction: New England Revolution 0-2 Atlanta United
Despite the short rest, three points are well within Atlanta’s grasp. A Lopez brace will see the Five Stripes past New England, while the defense will continue to flex its might as Alan Franco integrates into the lineup.