After managing to pick up an impressive and yet ultimately disappointing draw at Columbus Crew, Atlanta United is heading back south in search of a long awaited win to go with its improving performances of late. Like its first visit to Ohio and FC Cincy a few weeks ago, the Five Stripes had a superb attacking showing derailed by a pair of defensive mistakes against the Crew. Though performances such as the one over the weekend are no doubt encouraging, we’ve seen the same unhappy ending to take much solace in that. The arrival of Wayne Rooney’s league-worst DC United, however, will at least give Gonzalo Pineda’s men a chance to change up the scrip and tally its first win in four games.
DC sits one spot below Atlanta in the standings but its haul of 22 points is eight short of the rest of the conference. United is now onto its third coach of the season after sacking Hernan Losada in April and capturing Wayne Rooney to replace interim Chad Ashton in July. DC has one win, one draw, and four losses under the Englishman, scoring twice and conceding 13. Most appalling was its 6-0 defeat to Philadelphia Union last weekend, which followed a 7-0 defeat in the return fixture earlier in the season. With those two scorelines in mind, you won’t be surprised to learn that DC has the league-worst defense with 55 conceded and the third worst expected goals against tally (45xga).
There’s no solace for DC in attack either. It’s been shutout in five games straight and is tied for last in goals scored (28). DP signing Taxi Fountas has been a rare ray of sunshine with 11 goals and one assist, while summer signing Christian Benteke could debut Sunday. Other than that, however, DC has been a wasteland in attack, especially with former assist-leader Julian Gressel now in Vancouver. Rooney’s other main signings (both from European second divisions), midfielders Victor Pálsson and Ravel Morrison, haven’t been able to do much to paper over the rest of DC’s many problems, so United is very much in a looking ahead to 2023 mood with 8 games to go.
Though daylight is rapidly fading on any remaining playoff hopes Atlanta had (five points and six teams separate it from the red line), a win against DC at home is still a must. After that, well, the schedule gets pretty tough with a Wednesday visit to Philadelphia and a trip to Portland to close out the week. For now, though, let’s focus on scoring some goals and conceding none against the soon-to-be Wooden Spoon holders.
Predicted Starting XIs
McBlunder’s Prediction: Atlanta United 3-0 DC United
Atlanta will finally put it all together (albeit against the worst team in the league) and cruise past DC with goals from Cisneros (x2) and Almada.