It’s crunch time for Atlanta United’s 2022 season. The Five Stripes are down to its final ten games over the next month and a half, with five at the Benz and five on the road. And just like last year, everything is still to play for, starting with a Wednesday night visit from none other than the New York Red Bulls, who Atlanta are yet to beat in regular season action.
Despite a hot start to the season, New York has faded in the summer and picked up just one win in its last six. What was once a sure lock for a higher seed in the Eastern Conference has now morphed into a battle for a playoff spot and the Red Bulls currently sit 4th on 37 points, only 4 ahead of ninth-placed FC Cincinnati. New York’s problems over the last few weeks can’t be pinned down to one particular area of the field; it’s gone from a 5-1 Open Cup blowout at the hands of Orlando to a 5-4 shootout loss to Colorado to two straight blanks in front of goal against DC and Orlando again. Instead, a complete system failure seems to be the root of New York’s problems thanks to the effects of constantly trying to press and play Energy Drink soccer in 90+ degree summer weather. The struggles of New York’s alleged starting striker, Patryk Klimala, haven’t helped either and played a large part in the Red Bulls’ three shutouts in its last five outings.
Atlanta’s 2-2 draw in Cincinnati was a positive performance but didn’t help much beyond that. The Five Stripes are now down to 13th and 4 points and 6 teams below the red line, albeit with a game in hand on a number of the teams ahead of it. With 9 of its remaining 10 games against fellow Eastern Conference teams, Atlanta’s destiny is still in its own hands, but only barely. Though the Five Stripes put on an attacking showcase against Cincy, its defensive issues remain a concern and look like an obstacle too big to scale to reach the postseason. If it's any solace, a struggling Red Bulls attack is definitely a step or two below Cincinnati’s front line, but I won’t hold my breath on an error-clean performance until I see it.
Predicted Starting XIs
McBlunder’s Prediction: Atlanta United 2-1 New York Red Bulls
After successfully predicting last weekend’s 2-2 draw, I’ll go out on a limb and say Atlanta finally gets a win over the Red Bulls in the regular season on Wednesday. Goals will come from Thiago Almada and Luiz Araujo, though a shutout will have to wait thanks to Tom Barlow’s late consolation strike.