The vibes around Atlanta United are decidedly not great right now. Three losses on the bounce and one win in seven tries have washed away expectations of a very exciting 2023. Nonetheless, a look at the upcoming schedule offers at least some hope that the Five Stripes can rediscover their mojo from the opening weeks of the season. Charlotte FC is The first of three C teams (along with Colorado and Chicago) on Atlanta’s calendar in a week’s span and a perfect opportunity for Gonzalo Pineda’s side to break its losing streak.
Charlotte is 12th in the Eastern Conference on 12 points, but only one win away from 5th thanks to the general mess that has been the East this season. It started the season in horrible fashion with 3 straight losses and a large quantity of tinkering with the lineup and playing players out of position from head coach Christian Lattanzio. The Italian seems to have settled on a more straight-forward 4-2-3-1 of late and to good effect; Charlotte has moved on from that 0-0-3 start with 2 losses in its next 8. That 4-2-3-1 formation was what spurned Charlotte on to almost making the playoffs in its Expansion year and seemed to be in mind as the go-to plan when Charlotte made its offseason moves. The biggest one of those was Argentinian striker Enzo Copetti, who leads Charlotte’s charts with 4 goals and has linked up smoothly with striker-turned-attacking mid Karol Swiderski, who boasts 2 goals and 2 assists of his own. Wingers Kewin Vargas (2g, 1a) and Kamil Jozwiack (2g, 2a) have provided the threat down the flanks, although not consistently enough for Charlotte’s liking. Lattanzio’s biggest concern Saturday, however, will be a selection crisis. Copetti and midfielder Derrick Jones are out on yellow card accumulation, while Bill Tuiloma, Joseph Mora, Adilson Malanda, and Jozwiack are all dealing with some sort of injury.
Atlanta, meanwhile, should be returning to full strength just in time for Charlotte, with Giorgos Giakoumakis, Franco Ibarra, and Luiz Araujo back in training. Despite the struggles of late, the Five Stripes remain near the top of the East in 4th with 18 points, but 5th through 9th are only 4 points back and one more run of form like the recent stretch would completely erase the boost from Atlanta’s red-hot start to the season. With home matches against Charlotte and Colorado as well as a visit to the Chicago Fire on the way in a three-game week, that doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon. But if Atlanta can’t pick up at least 6 of the 9 points available, the concerns will only mount.
Atlanta has a 2W-0D-1L lead in the short series between these clubs, including a 3-0 win at Charlotte back in March.
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: Atlanta United 3-1 Charlotte FC
Charlotte’s conference-worst defense will be just what Atlanta needs to get back on track, and the probable returns of Araujo and Giakoumakis will only help. The Five Stripes will run out 3-1 winners with goals from Giakoumakis (x2) and Almada.