Well, Atlanta United is down its striker and best player, but maybe the timing isn’t as bad as once thought. Josef Martinez appears to be out the rest of the regular season but should be back just in time for the beginning of the playoffs.
Whether the start of the playoffs is the weekend of October 19 and 20 remains to be seen - that’s because Atlanta United are still in the running for first place in the Eastern Conference. Guess who they’re playing tonight? NYCFC, who currently hold the top seed in the conference and are four points up on the Five Stripes. An Atlanta loss means that the Pigeons have it wrapped up, while an Atlanta win means it’s a one-point margin with 2 matches left for either side. (A draw doesn’t change anything in the standings)
Atlanta United’s projected starting XI at NYCFC (3-5-2)
GK: Brad Guzan.
Defense: Franco Escobar - Leandro Gonzalez Pirez - Miles Robinson
Escobar showed no ill effects from having his leg stepped on by Cristian Espinosa on Saturday, which is good news.
Wingbacks: Justin Meram - Julian Gressel
Gressel said in training on Monday that he was fine after what looked to be a more serious injury on Saturday than it turned out to be.
Midfield: Emerson Hyndman - Eric Remedi - Darlington Nagbe
Hyndman’s never going to be a like-for-like swapout of Ezequiel Barco (who is officially listed as questionable for tonight, but isn’t playing) but he’s certainly held his own over the past few games. Remedi had a notable goal on his last trip up to Yankee Stadium and unveiled the dance move which will forever be known as the Shimedi.
Attack: Tito Villalba - Pity Martinez
Here’s the thing. I have no ill will against Brandon Vazquez. He’s a great kid that’s spent a good amount with ATL UTD 2 this season. I just don’t think he’s the right option at striker for the club in Josef Martinez’s absence. Villalba should be the easy choice here, although I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing something like Vazquez at LWB in place of Meram, who’s looked a little out of form.