Atlanta United is trending in a very, very, wrong direction. A home game against a short-handed Charlotte seemed like the perfect opportunity to turn its losing streak around, but instead, the Five Stripes’ woes were only compounded in a 3-1 defeat. Atlanta is now on a run of four defeats in a row in all competitions and 2 wins in its last 9 outings. The good news, however, is that Gonzalo Pineda’s men will get a chance to bounce back immediately with a rare midweek MLS encounter with the Colorado Rapids.
The Rapids are 10th in the Western Conference on 12 points but have trended (slightly) upwards recently. After 3 losses in its opening 4 games, Colorado went on a 7 game unbeaten run in league play, only ended this past weekend by the Philadelphia Union, and is still alive in Open Cup play. The majority of those 7 fixtures were draws (5), with Colorado showing a knack for keeping games close even if the final product in attack wasn’t always there. Robin Fraser’s side scored 8 and conceded 5 in that span, utilizing a 3-4-3 shape with an emphasis on sitting back and striking on the counter. Wingers Kevin Cabral (2g) and Michael Barrios (2g, 2a) have been Colorado’s most productive players so far, alongside striker Diego Rubio (1g, 2a). But as those rather paltry numbers might suggest, Colorado has one of the worst attacks in the league, tied for 2nd last in the West with 10 goals scored.
Atlanta, however, will be without a major component of its backline against the Rapids. Andrew Gutman is suspended after his DOGSO red from Charlotte and his usual backup Caleb Wiley will be away on international duty with the U-20 national team. That leaves Ronald Hernandez and Derrick Etienne as the presumed starters on the left flank, neither of which has impressed much this season for a variety of reasons. Nonetheless, Atlanta desperately needs three points from Wednesday. Although it remains 4th on 18 points, Philadelphia is right behind on 17 and there are seven (!) teams tied on 15 points, the majority of which have a game in hand on Atlanta. With two road games coming up next week, anything less than a victory tomorrow wipes away the Five Stripes’ slim lead on the chasing pack and its deceptively high ranking in the standings.
Atlanta has a 3W-0D-1L lead in the all-time series, although it lost last season’s fixture 3-0 away.
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: Atlanta United 1-1 Colorado Rapids
Colorado’s bunker defense will give Atlanta headaches all night long, with a moment of brilliance from Thiago Almada canceled out by a Cabral goal on the counter.