Well, it’s almost here. After months of waiting and anticipating, Atlanta United open its 5th season away to L.D. Alajuelense in 1st leg of the Concacaf Champions League Round of 16. And to say that this will be a tough game for the Five Stripes is an understatement: not only are Los Leones deep into their season, but they are atop Costa Rica’s Primera División with 34 points through 16 matches, 6 points clear of Santos de Guápiles. And their stingy defense will be on display: they’ve allowed just 9 goals all season.
Needless to say, Gabriel Heinze’s side will have it all to do against one of Costa Rica’s most successful clubs. Here’s what I think the starting XI will look like on Tuesday:
- I think Josef Martinez starts. That said, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him on a 60-minute cap before coming off as he’s still a couple of weeks away from full match fitness.
- No Marcelino Moreno, who saw red in Atlanta’s win against América in the 2nd leg of last year’s Champions League quarterfinal. He’d otherwise get the start at LW, but we should see Jake Mulraney there on Tuesday.
- Barco is the No. 10, but Gabriel Heinze has mentioned numerous times that he’ll be utilized both in the middle of the field and near the sideline. So despite Mulraney starting at LW, expect Barco to see plenty of time in the wide areas as Heinze looks to unleash his full potential—something we haven’t really seen on a consistent basis since the 22-year-old arrived in Atlanta.
- While we’ll see Santiago Sosa nestled in front of the centerbacks, he’ll be used in a role similar to how he was utilized against the Charleston Battery in the preseason. Joe wrote about it in detail a few weeks ago, but we’ll get a great look at it on Tuesday in a real, live, actual game.
What are your thoughts? Chime in below in the comments.