Atlanta United’s 2022 season began in dazzling fashion with a 3-1 win over Sporting Kansas City, but the Five Stripes’ perfect record will take some work to preserve. Gonzalo Pineda’s side visits the Colorado Rapids in Week 2 at the Mile-High City. Colorado has endured a rough start to 2022 and it will come out with guns blazing in its home opener in search of a first win of the year.
The Rapids won the Western Conference on the final day of the season last year, edging out Seattle and Sporting by one and three points respectively. Colorado’s playoff journey ended prematurely, however, and Portland knocked it out in the Conference semi-finals. Colorado went on to lose midfielders Kellyn Acosta (LAFC) and Cole Bassett (Feyenoord), and Braian Galvan (injury) in the offseason, with young Brazilian Max the sole import. Colorado also failed to fill any of its three DP spots, and a regression sure looks in store for the Burgundy side. The opening weeks of the season have been far from encouraging for the Rapids' hopes of repeating as the number 1 seed. It crashed out of the Concacaf Champions League on penalties after a 1-1 aggregate draw with Guatemalan side Comunicaciones before suffering a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of LAFC on opening day. While the defense hasn’t been stellar, it's the attack that’s let Colorado down so far. It's been shut out in two of its three games and while a top-end striker would certainly help, the Rapids have struggled to create chances of any sort so far. Diego Rubio (5g, 4a in 2021), Michael Barrios (8g, 5a), and Jonathan Lewis (7g, 1a) are all solid side-pieces, but so far none of them have shown the quality to lead the attack for Colorado. The midfield is where Atlanta will be put under the most pressure. Colorado’s 3-4-3/3-5-2 puts a lot of numbers in the middle. Mark Anthony-Kaye, Jack Price, and either the defensively-minded Bryan Acosta or the attacking Max will give Atlanta headaches in the center of the park, much unlike Sporting and their debacle at defensive midfield last week.
Atlanta has 3 wins out of 3 in the all-time series against Colorado, the last of which was a 1-0 victory decided by a second-half Julian Gressel goal in the summer of 2019. The altitude didn’t cause Atlanta any problems in the away leg, a comfortable 3-0 win in 2018.
Predicted Starting XIs
Alan Franco will return from his suspension but at the cost of Luiz Araujo, who is sidelined with injury. Brooks Lennon could get the start over last week’s hero Dom Dwyer on the flank, with the latter filling the super-sub role instead.
Prediction: Colorado Rapids 1-2 Atlanta United
Josef Martinez will open his 2022 account with the opener before late drama with goals from Rubio and Dwyer to hand Atlanta a hard-fought second win of the season.