Atlanta United’s pair of draws against New England and Nashville weren’t so much bad results as unsatisfying. The Five Stripes attacking prowess was on display but time and time again its defensive weaknesses ruined any chance at three points. In the end, a point each was fair on both occasions, though it didn’t mean much in the standings. Atlanta should like its chances better at victory this weekend when a crumbling Columbus Crew visits the Benz.
Columbus has just one win in its last ten dating back to mid-March and sits 12th on 13 points in the Eastern Conference. It has the fourth-worst attack with just 15 goals scored, though the Crew’s backline (15 conceded) has slightly helped. Not much, however, as the standings show. Manager Caleb Porter, who joined in 2019 and won the 2020 MLS Cup, uses a 4-2-3-1 that relies heavily on attacking midfielder Lucas Zelarayan, and as the Armenian-Argentine goes, so does Columbus. In the first three games of the season where he notched a goal or assist in each, Columbus had 7 points (2.3 per game). In the nine games since then, Zelarayan hasn’t found the boxscore once and the Crew has averaged .66 points per game. Winger Derrick Ettiene (3g, 4a) is also capable of stardom on his day, but like Zelarayan, the Haitian isn’t known for consistency. The duo have both hit a drought of late and combined with the sale of Gyasi Zardes to Colorado, the end result is that Columbus has been shut out six times in the last eight, including back-to-back 2-0 losses heading into Saturday.
Atlanta’s shaky defense should get a reprieve with the Crew’s arrival, while the attack is only going to keep getting better as Thiago Almada shows his class. The Argentine’s 3 goals and 2 assists have sent Atlanta’s attack up to the 5th best in the East with 19 total goals, including two or more in its last four in all competitions. We may even get a peak at how Josef Martinez fits into the front four for the first time in a while - the Venezualan is questionable for this weekend.
Predicted Started XIs
Prediction: Atlanta United 4-0 Columbus Crew
Atlanta will finally piece it all together in a dominant victory over a reeling Columbus. Goals will come from Almada (duh), Araujo (x2), and an Alan Franco header.