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Predicting Atlanta United’s starting XI vs. Chattanooga FC

Who will Gonzalo Pineda select in Atlanta’s first U.S. Open Cup action in a couple years?

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at Atlanta United FC Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United, still the holders of the U.S. Open Cup, begin their journey to defend the trophy tonight when the club welcomes Chattanooga FC to Fifth Third Bank Stadium in Kennesaw tonight.

Lineup predictions for a game like this is truly a fool’s errand, so, hello, my name is Joe reporting for duty.

Notes:

  • When you look at the roster, If Pineda doesn’t play with two strikers, then it seems likely to me that one of Thiago Almada, Marcelino Moreno or Luiz Araujo would need to start. It’s hard for me to see Pineda wanting to put Araujo in that situation given his injury situation, and both Moreno and Alamad have been playing a lot and will obviously be needed firing on all cylinders this weekend in league play vs. Miami. So I’m going a little bold here in predicting more of a 4-4-2 shape with both Dom Dwyer and Jackson Conway in the selection.
  • While Mikey Ambrose is surely in contention to make the team — which could in turn push Wiley up into the LW role he’s excelled in MLS — Ambrose also played 90 minutes on Saturday on the road with Atlanta United 2 which perhaps isn’t ideal. At the left back position — a role that will be doing more attacking than anything else against an overmatched opponent — Caleb Wiley seems to make more sense.
  • It’s truly an open question who Pineda will select at the back. I tend to think AlexDe John will get a run out, and Alan Franco didn’t feature Saturday with a sore ankle (though he was a full participant in training on Monday).
  • In midfield, Ibarra may have been held out of Saturday’s match with the foresight that he’d feature in his first start of the season in this match. Next to him, I actually didn’t want to pick Hyndman because I think in general we should be cautious about how heavily he’ll be used during this re-integration period. But he would’ve expended minimal energy in the game against Cincy (he played 10 minutes), while others in contention for this role have played heavy minutes and could use a breather (specifically thinking of Sejdic). Hyndman would obviously be earmarked as a player who would need a sub at either halftime or 60 minutes.
  • With the wingers, I would not be at all surprised to see them flipped and playing on their “natural” sides (the sides of their stronger feet), particularly if the team is playing with two forwards. Chattanooga will sit deep and try to clog up the middle as best they can, so there may be more room to operate if they play wider as more natural wingers.
  • I predict this post will look very silly when lineups are released around 6:30 p.m. So join in and be wrong with me. Who is in your XI?