The first two matches of the 2023 MLS season are in the books, and with it goes a two-game homestand for Atlanta United. The Five Stripes managed 4 points, 3 goals scored, and 2 conceded, but couldn’t avoid falling victim to many of the same problems that plagued it last season. Gonzalo Pineda’s side will be hoping for at least one of those trends to come to an end in Saturday’s visit to Charlotte FC; namely, Atlanta’s horrid record away from the Benz. The Five Stripes boasted the 11th-worst road record in the East last season, with 2 wins, 5 draws, and 10 losses. A trip to a pointless Charlotte would be an excellent opportunity to at least begin to banish Atlanta’s away plights to 2022, but the onus is on the Five Stripes to find the next gear.
Atlanta’s first two games of 2023 have featured glimpses of promise but nothing of substance to show that the Five Stripes can solve its old problems, first and foremost generating quality chances out of prolonged spells of possession. The debut of Giorgos Giakoumakis added a bit of bite to Atlanta’s attack last week and the hope is that the introduction of the Greek and possibly Derrick Etienne Junior will do the trick and take some of the attacking load off Thiago Almada’s shoulders. There’s mixed news in midfield, however, with Matheus Rossetto picking up a hamstring problem while Santiago Sosa returns from a 3 game suspension.
After finishing 9th and 6 points off a playoff spot in 2022, the aim for Charlotte’s second year of existence was to go one step further and make the postseason, building off the positive signs shown by former interim and now full time head coach Christian Lattanzio, who stepped in after the midseason sacking of Miguel Angel Ramirez. The core of last season’s squad was kept intact, with a handful additions around the edges to reinforce Charlotte’s weaknesses such as veterans defender Nathan Byrne and midfielder Ashley Westwood, and one big name in Enzo Copetti, fresh off a 19 goal season for Racing Club in Argentina.
So far, however, Charlotte is one of five teams to still be on zero points after two rounds. Its campaign began with a 1-0 loss to New England in its season opener and 3-1 defeat to Saint Louis in the latter’s first ever home opener. Copetti scored Charlotte’s lone goal and will be the main dangerman Saturday along with Karol Świderski, who has played as a 10 of late despite nominally being a striker. That’s about the beginning and end of Charlotte’s attacking threat, with the 3rd DP on its roster - Kamil Jóźwiak - managing just 1 goal in his last 81 appearances for Charlotte and Derby County.
Atlanta and Charlotte split their opening series in the latter’s expansion season.
- 2-1 (H), 3/13/22
- 1-0 (A), 4/10/22
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: Charlotte FC 1-2 Atlanta United
The Five Stripes will keep their undefeated start to the season alive and take all three points from the trip to North Carolina. Atlanta will open the scoring through Luiz Araujo before Giorgos Giakoumakis snags a game winner in his full debut.