Fresh off one of the most convincing wins of its season and its best game of 2023 considering the caliber of the opponent, Atlanta United has pressed fully down on the chaos button. The transfer window has barely opened, but previous first-choice starters Andrew Gutman and Franco Ibarra are already out, and Tristan Muyumba, the first of hopefully many midfield reinforcements, is in. For now, though, the focus will be on a trip to CF Montreal as Atlanta looks to find something resembling momentum and not let last weekend’s victory go to waste.
Montreal is 9th on 26 points, currently in the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot. New manager Hernan Losada had quite the task on his hand to replace Wilfried Nancy, one of the best coaches in MLS, not to mention the departures of a number of key players including Djorde Mihailovic, Alistair Johnston, and Kei Kamara. Though Montreal is a few levels below the team that finished 2nd in 2022, it hasn’t been as bad as some expected under Losada (whose energy-soccer approach varies vastly from Nancy’s possession-based style). Montreal started off 2023 with 1 win in its first 7 and a -14 goal differential, but it’s since found some stability, especially at home. Montreal has 7 wins in 9 at Stade Saputo compared to just one in 11 attempts on the road. That’s little thanks to its attack, which ranks 3rd worst in the league with a mere 20 goals scored. No Montreal player has more than 3 goals, although the midweek signing of Kwadwo Opoku from LAFC might change that.
Atlanta, luckily, will not need to worry about Montreal’s newest reinforcement just yet. It does, however, need to figure out how to replace Gutman and Ibarra in the short term until Muyumba is eligible to play, along with who will start up front in place of Giorgos Giakoumakis (who’s questionable for Saturday). Despite the success of the back-three against Philadelphia, it seems as though a back-four is still Gonzalo Pineda’s go-to shape except in special circumstances (such as the team needing to win apparently). The victory over Philadelphia also had the added bonus of shoring up Atlanta’s spot in the top-7 and baring some complete collapse, the current top-7 in the East should stay the same for the foreseeable future. Atlanta, on 32 points in 7th, has a 3-point lead and game-in-hand over 8th. What is still up for grabs, though, is seeding, and Atlanta is only 3 short of 5th place and with more performances like last week, that could change very quickly.
Atlanta has a 5W-3D-3L lead in the all time-series, although Montreal is unbeaten in the last four meetings.
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: CF Montreal 1-1 Atlanta United
Atlanta will return from Canada with a point thanks to a late equalizer from who else but Thiago Almada, although it won’t be pretty thanks to the Five Stripes’ mounting absences.