Atlanta’s US Open Cup Round of 32 defeat to Nashville was a disaster in every way possible. Another starter exited with an injury. Key players went 120 minutes in a midweek game. The best chance at a CCL spot and trophy is gone. And last but not least, the Five Stripes suffered a mentally demoralizing collapse. For better or worse, Atlanta gets a chance to turn the page as soon as possible when reigning Supporters Shield champs New England Revolution visit the Benz Sunday.
The Revs have had a less than ideal start to their title defense and currently sit 11th in the Eastern Conference on 11 points. Its CONCACAF Champions League trip ended abruptly in the quarterfinals when it blew a 3-0 lead against PUMAS and went on to lose on spot-kicks. Unlike CF Montreal, New England’s struggles in MLS play only increased after getting the boot from continental action and it lost three straight after the loss in Mexico. The Revs have just two wins in its last seven and much of that is thanks to its sieve-like defense, with 18 conceded (4th worst record in the East) and only two clean sheets all season. New England is still a force in the final third and has the fourth-best attack, led by Carles Gil (3g, 4a), Adam Buksa (4g, 2a), and fullbacks Brandon Bye (2g, 1a) and DeJuan Jones (1g, 3a). Gil (3g and 1a), Buska (2g), and Bye (2a) all played key roles in the Revs’ 5-1 Open Cup victory over Cincinnati midweek and look to be hitting top form at the perfect time from an Atlanta perspective. New England is also unbeaten in its last two MLS games and would be on a two-game winning streak if not for a late and undeserved equalizer from Columbus last weekend.
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: Atlanta United 2-2 New England Revolution
Considering New England’s records at both ends of the pitch goals seem like a certainty Sunday. Atlanta will go up thanks to strikes from Cisneros and Almada but its tired legs will show as New England springs a second-half comeback via a Buksa brace.