The unbridled optimism sparked by a five-star opening day victory didn’t last long in the Five Stripes universe. Just a week later Atlanta United was brought crashing back to reality at the hands of the Colorado Rapids but Gonzalo Pineda and Co have a golden opportunity to show that last week was just a blip when Charlotte FC visits the Benz Sunday.
The expansion side is yet to record either a goal or a win after two matches, a 3-0 debut defeat to DC and a one-nil loss to the LA Galaxy. Head coach Miguel Ángel Ramírez favors a 4-3-3 but so far he’s been pushed into a 3-5-2 thanks to Charlotte’s bereft of attackers. Performances haven’t offered much beyond glimpses of potential for the future once Charlotte has more quality on the roster and more practice in Ramírez’s system. The Spaniard painted the picture pretty clearly when he said “estamos jodidos” in response to a question about Charlotte’s off-season mere weeks before the season began.
Charlotte’s roster has a clear deficiency in the final third, as Polish striker Karol Swiderski is the only full-fledged DP on the roster and a move for a number of attackers fell through at the last minute. Those attacking issues have only become more and more apparent as the season progresses. Charlotte’s 3-0 defeat to DC flatted United, with Charlotte putting up more than a fight only to be let down by some unlucky bounces and limited danger in the final third. Last weekend’s home opener further showcased the North Carolina side’s offensive weaknesses and it totaled a mere five shots in front of a record-breaking crowd at Bank of America Stadium. Swiderski has yet to make a real impact and wingers Christian Ortiz and Yordy Reyna don’t look capable of stepping into bigger roles either. With reinforcements not likely to arrive anytime soon, Charlotte is going to have to figure it out on the run to avoid a dreary welcoming to MLS.
Atlanta’s lopsided defeat to Colorado can easily be excused by a number of reasons, from the weather to a plethora of absentees. One thing’s for sure, however. The display from the Five Stripes simply wasn’t good enough no matter what. Atlanta will get at least be able to trim a couple of names from the unavailable list for Sunday, Santiago Sosa and Ozzie Alonso the most prominent of which. Miles Robinson heads the other way, though, thanks to a red card against Colorado.
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: Atlanta United 2-1 Charlotte FC
A Josef Martinez brace will power Atlanta past a spirited but ultimately futile defensive effort from Charlotte, though a late Swiderski goal will break the visitors’ scoring drought.