These previews sure aren’t getting any easier to write. I could bring up must-win games or the chance of the Five Stripes fixing its awful away record for the umpteenth time this season, but at this point there’s not much point. Whenever Atlanta has shown any signs of turning its season around (the win over RSL, the win against Seattle, just to name a few in the last couple of weeks), a game or two later it’s come thudding back down to reality. We saw that again Wednesday. The hard work that went into picking up a point at Cincinnatti was out the window 15 minutes in against the Red Bulls and that was that. Well, not quite yet. Atlanta still has 9 whole games and 810 minutes of action left until its 2022 campaign will finally come to a close, though it’s getting harder and harder to find something to get excited about each game. But alas, there’s no stopping yet. Gonzalo Pineda and Co take the show on the road and return to Ohio this weekend to take on a revitalized Columbus Crew to try and play spoiler in the playoff race, or you know, not get blown out by one of the best-attacking partnerships in the league.
On the verge of watching a second straight season wither into mediocty, Columbus spent big in the summer market to sign ‘Cucho’ Hernandez from Watford for $10 million. The 23-year-old Colombian striker had 5 goals and 2 assists in 25 EPL appearances for the Hornets and was quite the coup for Columbus. Hernandez has provided the instant impact Columbus dreamed of when they captured him, and he boasts 6 goals in 8 appearances so far. But just as important has been the form of Argentine attacking midfielder Lucas Zelarayan, who’s been reignited since Hernandez joined. He has 8 goals and 5 assists on the season, including 4 and 4 of each with Cucho in the lineup. In the same timeframe, the Crew as a whole has registered 4 wins, 4 draws, and just one loss and now sits 5th in the Eastern Conference. Though its haul of 34 points is only 4 clear of 12th place, Columbus has a number of games in hand and could catch the Red Bulls in 4th should it win both. Not only will Atlanta have to keep the electric pair of Cucho and Zelarayan quiet, but it will also have to find a way past the second-best defense in the East which has conceded a mere 27 times.
Predicted Starting XIs
McBlunder’s Prediction: Columbus Crew 3-1 Atlanta United
Cucho is gonna score some goals.