The Five Stripes have another quick turnaround after an absolute mauling of F.C. Cincinnati on Wednesday night with a home match against D.C. United on Saturday.
With the Eastern Conference standings literally looking like a Royal Rumble, Atlanta United has to continue to prove they’re capable of winning games when they matter. And the rest of their games matter because the upcoming opponents are floating all around the Five Stripes in the standings. Championship teams win tough games under pressure. Fortunately, they scored a combined 7 goals and conceded 0 against Orlando and Cincy, but unfortunately the Gabriel Heinze-era didn’t give the team much room to relax.
The last time these two teams met, Atlanta traveled to the nation’s capital and fought to a gritty 2-1 win to put a cap on Rob Valentino’s interim coaching spell. Since then, D.C. has beaten Philly, drew the Red Bulls, and whooped Chicago - thanks to an Ola Kamara hat trick. Meanwhile, Atlanta had a tough loss to Nashville but then sent Orlando back to Disney World and Cincinnati back to...hell? Or maybe the kitchen with the wooden spoon.
This match, however, features a completely different Atlanta team than the one D.C. saw a few weeks ago. Injuries have healed, coaching has (truly) changed, and the team overall appears much more coherent than they did even during Valentino’s four-win streak. D.C. also isn’t the best team on the road, as they’ve won 2 and lost 7 this year, drawing midway at 4.
The D.C. threat stills remains, however, as Ola Kamara and our old pal Julian Gressel are part of an offense that can quickly break and give trouble to any back line. Kamara is sitting on 16 goals (and three assists) thus far this season, which now leads the race for the Golden Boot. Gressel has 5 assists and a clear penchant for dangerous crosses to his name. The Five Stripes will have to shut these two down to snuff out any hopes of D.C. stealing points at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. However, Paul Arriola and Yordy Reyna also sit lurking with a few goals each, and it was Reyna who scored the lone D.C. goal the last time these two teams met.
Thankfully, Atlanta United’s back line has been one of the more consistent stories this season, as Miles Robinson, Alan Franco, Anton Walkes, and now George Campbell have been stout. It remains to be seen if Walkes will be available for Saturday, as he’s apparently battling a slight hamstring issue, but the other three are in good form. The other obvious factor in this match will be BAMM, whose attacking prowess has been on display in Atlanta’s recent two matches. D.C. is sitting on 1.38 goals conceded per match, which is the same as Orlando City, and we all saw what BAMM did to the purple kittens.
*Friday Update*: Robinson is being given a rest for the D.C. game because of his consistent work dating back to the USMNT qualifiers. He's a bit tired, so it'll likely be Franco, Campbell, and presumably Walkes holding it down.
That being said though, I think it might be high time to let “Mando” Moreno take a rest and possibly come on as a sub. The man had to carry the team for the first part of the year and I think Sosa and Rossetto may be a better fit to dance around D.C.’s midfield. I also expect Josef to see a lot more space, because Luiz “the Samba Sensation” Araujo (thank Kevin Egan for that treasure) just put the entire league on notice with his golazo against Cincinnati.
The run. The finish. The celebration.— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) September 15, 2021
We're ready for more of this pic.twitter.com/TALCGc6QjF
Predicted Starting Lineups:
Atlanta United - 3-4-3
D.C. United - 5-4-1
Final prediction: I’m going with Atlanta 3-1 off of another Araujo goal, mixed with another Josef brace. Josef is hungry and wants that 100 mark, and we all know he considers anything less than that Golden Boot subpar. I’ll probably never predict Alan Franco gets an assist, even though he got three against Cincy, but Barco snags another assist and so does George Bello.