Atlanta United has turned a rapidly decaying 2022 season around, or at least started too. The Five Stripes recouped from a 3-0 shellacking at the hands of Austin with a win over RSL and a draw that should have been three points against Orlando. Gonzalo Pineda’s side have a chance to further prove its improvement and make a statement on the road at a reeling LA Galaxy this weekend.
LA started the season hot but has since faded drastically in Greg Vanney’s second year in charge. His debut campaign followed a similar path, with the exception that the drop off came later in the season. This time around LA is already tempting fate, and sits 7th on 27 points, only three ahead of 12th. The Galaxy has lost three straight and has just one win in its last seven in all competitions. Though LA’s actual numbers aren’t stellar (it has the 7th best attack and 9th best defense in the West), its expected points is second best in the conference.
A large part of LA’s struggle to turn numbers into actual results is the lack of production from its Designated Players. Douglas Costa and Kevin Cabral have a combined 2 goals and 2 assists, while Chicharito has 7 goals, he’s been in a bit of a drought since the early weeks of the season. In fact, Dejan Joveljic is LA’s leading scorer with 8 goals despite only starting 5 games. Until very recently Vanney had been married to the 4-2-3-1 shape which kept the ineffective DP wingers on the field and Joveljic on the bench. Chicharito’s recent injury has allowed the Serbian to get on the field anyway and with the former likely to be fit by this weekend, it will be interesting to see what lineup Vanney throws out against Atlanta.
While back to back results over playoff teams was a welcome surprise, the most reassuring aspect of the last week was Atlanta’s newfound defensive stability. While RSL and Orlando are far from offensive firepowers, conceding one open play goal in 180 minutes would have been unheard of two weeks ago. The shift to a back three and Juan Jose Purata’s emergence are to thank, though the former does leave some questions over how to fit Atlanta’s haul of attackers into the lineup. Pineda won’t get much room for error over the next five games, which come at LA, Chicago, and Cincinnati and home vs Seattle and the Red Bulls. None of those seem like straight forward wins on paper, but if Atlanta do manage to pull off a run of form it could leap up the table, especially with a number of games against direct competitors for the post season. The Five Stripes are 11th, but a mere six points out of 5th with a game in hand.
Predicted Starting XIs
McBlunder’s Prediction: LA Galaxy 0-1 Atlanta United
After getting last Sunday’s draw with Orlando spot on, I’m feeling a bit more confident and will go with a 1-0 win for the good guys. Atlanta’s defensive stability will continue to improve while Josef Martínez will find his scoring boots and bag a late winner.