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Predicting Atlanta United’s starting XI vs. Real Salt Lake

Coming off the worst result of the season, what changes will Gonzalo Pineda make?

MLS: New England Revolution at Atlanta United FC Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United and Gonzalo Pineda are coming off of the team’s worst performance and result of the season in a 3-0 drubbing against Austin FC Saturday. Pineda said after the match that he was prepared to make many changes to his starting lineup as the first order of recourse, but seemed to walk that language back on Tuesday after he’d had some time to watch the film and marinate on the result. So what lineup will he trot out at Mercedes-Benz Stadium tonight? Here’s a guess:

  • In the wake of Saturday’s loss, Pineda was determined to improve the defense and build form that foundation. I think he will try to do this by throwing numbers at it, with three center backs and three true central midfielders — just as he did when the team went to Red Bull Arena and were the better team for 75 minutes.
  • At goalkeeper, Pineda mentioned Saturday that Gudiño is still coming off of an offseason, but he’s been in training for a few weeks now and I think Pineda will opt for the [purportedly] better shot stopper in Gudiño vs the better ball-player in Rios Novo.
  • In defense, I feel like Alan Franco will occupy the CCB role considering that’s where he played against Red Bulls and played extremely well. Other than that, I have no idea what side Purata and Campbell might play. But I feel pretty certain we will see all three in the starting lineup.
  • Again, looking at the Red Bulls game, I think Pineda will go with the same midfield he used there. The biggest tweak in this setup vs. conventional wisdom is the most skillful of the three midfielders in Rossetto playing the deepest of the three. This will help the team in build-up situations and allow the other midfielders like Ibarra to be aggressive knowing there’s cover behind. Ibarra has been getting dribbled past like crazy lately, so it seems wise to give him that cover.
  • In the attack, Luiz Araujo is suspended, so the decision will be between Almada and Moreno. Frankly, Almada is the more skillful attacker, and one that can be the more dynamic in tandem with Josef thanks to his creative passing and dynamic movement. Moreno would hold the ball up a little more and would have fresher legs given that he came on at halftime on Saturday. But Moreno seems to be falling out of Pineda’s first choice XI as evidence by the past couple games, and I’m not sure Moreno did himself any favors in his 45 minutes Saturday night.

What do you think Pineda will go for?