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Atlanta United vs New York Red Bulls: Match Preview

Fresh off a franchise-worst loss, the Five Stripes look to regain its early season form against *checks notes* the Red Bulls… uh-oh

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Atlanta United FC Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United’s red-hot start to 2023 came crashing down with last week’s 6-1 loss to Columbus Crew. But all is not lost. The Five Stripes have more than enough excuses to write those 90 minutes off as a freak accident - but it won’t mean anything if Atlanta doesn’t show that on the field and bounce back to pre-Columbus form as soon as possible. That won’t be easy, though, with Atlanta’s boogey-team, the New York Red Bulls, visiting the Benz this Saturday.

SOCCER: MAR 25 MLS - Columbus Crew vs Atlanta United FC Photo by Graham Stokes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Despite last week’s mauling, Atlanta’s record remains one of the best in the league and 3rd best in the Eastern Conference (behind New England and FC Cincinnati), though there are some significant concerns to take away from Atlanta’s first loss of the season. For one, depth. Yes, Atlanta was missing 7 players, but Columbus was short just as many key players as the Five Stripes. The Five Stripes have a superb top-end of its roster, but the drop-off to the backups (and backups to the backups) is steep - at least on one game’s evidence. With Thiago Almada returning to training on Friday, Gonzalo Pineda might be without Atlanta’s star in the starting lineup again Saturday and the onus will be on the Mexican to craft a better Plan B than what we saw last week.

The manner in which Atlanta lost against the Crew also makes it difficult to avoid worrying about whether those first four games were nothing more than taking advantage of an easy schedule (outside of Columbus, Toronto’s 6 points is the highest total of any team Atlanta has played so far). If those worries are valid, we’ll see it over the next few weeks as Atlanta takes on both New York teams and visits Toronto. A positive result - or at the least performance to be proud of - against the Red Bulls, would be just what the doctor ordered to collectively to wipe the Columbus game from memory and show that Atlanta is here to stay.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at New York Red Bulls Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Bulls have stumbled out of the gates so far, currently in 11th on 6 points. After finishing 4th last season, keeping the roster largely intact (minus Aaron Long and embattled striker Patryk Klimala), and adding 3 new strikers to solve the long standing forward problem in Harrison, there was hope New York could take another step forward under third-year manager Gerhard Struber. Instead, the Red Bulls are merely treading water in 2023. Even without the former pillar of Long, its defense is the second best in the East with only 4 goals conceded. Scoring once again remains New York’s problem - it has scored just 4, the second-worst tally in the East. Big-money DP striker Dante Vanzier has yet to make a start this season for some unknown reason, but has still managed one game-winning goal in 77 minutes of action. New York’s goal scoring woes will likely dissipate once the 24-year-old Belgian’s begins getting regular game time, but until that happens the Red Bulls’ ceiling is severely limited.

Previous Results

Atlanta has never beaten the Red Bulls in regular season play and boasts a lovely 1W-4D-9L record against New York in all competitions. Last season’s meetings featured a pair of 2-1 losses for Pineda’s men.

Predicted Starting XI’s

Atlanta’s Predicted XI (4-2-3-1)
New York’s Predicted XI (3-4-2-1)

Prediction: Atlanta United 1-1 New York Red Bulls

Atlanta won’t be able to rediscover its winning ways just yet, but the Five Stripes will at least make the Red Bulls sweat for a result. A strike from Giorgos Giakoumakis will be canceled out by super-sub Vanzeir after 90 minutes of the Red Bulls’ infamous demolition derby and heavy Atlanta possession.