The last few weeks have not been very rosy for the Five Stripes, to say the least. A pair of poor performances against Toronto and Chicago morphed into a pair of concerning results and performances against Memphis and Nashville, leaving Atlanta’s weaknesses bare for all to see. Gonzalo Pineda’s side will look to put a stop to the slide in a visit to Inter Miami, Atlanta’s first meeting with Josef Martinez since the Venezuelan departed this offseason.
Miami’s season began in a similar fashion to Atlanta’s with two wins in its first two, but its fall-off came much sooner and was far steeper, sparked in part by the long-term injury of midfield cog Gregore on Matchday 3. Phil Neville’s side lost six straight after those first two victories and only managed to break the losing streak this past weekend with a 2-1 win at Columbus Crew - just in time for Atlanta. Despite that win, Miami remains in the Eastern Conference cellar in 12th, tied on 9 points with four teams for last place. The Herons are particularly subpar in the final third, where it has scored only 8 all season (the third-worst tally in the East). The departures of Gonzalo Higuain (retirement) and Alejandro Pozuelo (expired contract) have loomed large, especially thanks to Josef Martinez’s 0 goals and 0 assists in 7 appearances (6 starts) and Leonardo Campana’s injury-forced absence - although he seems to getting back on track after a brace last week. Other than Campana, no one at Miami has more than one goal, and only player, midfielder Jean Mota, has multiple assists (3).
The defense, on the other hand, has been a stronghold for Miami. Offseason reinforcements Franco Negri, Serhiy Kryvtsov, and Kamal Miller have reshaped the backline and to great effect so far - Miami has conceded just 10 all season, the 3rd best tally in the East, although the last shutout it recorded was back on Matchday 2.
Atlanta’s recent struggles are yet to really affect it in the standings, where it remains 3rd on 18 points, 3 below 1st and 2nd but 3 ahead of 4th and 5th. The East is shaping up to be quite the dogpile with a large group of teams separated by very little, but so far Atlanta has done enough to avoid the scrap of 5 teams between 4th and 8th with the difference of only one point. That could change this weekend, however, if Atlanta’s stumble continues and the gap its red-hot early-season form created is erased.
The all-time record between Atlanta and Miami stands at a perfectly balanced 3W-3D-3L, including one win each last season.
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: Inter Miami 1-1 Atlanta United
Atlanta won’t be able to rediscover its winning ways, but the steep downhill trend of late will be slowed with a 1-1 draw after goals from Thiago Almada and who else but Josef Martinez off the bench.