Hudson River Blue spoke with Joe Patrick, the Managing Editor of Dirty South Soccer, one of just two SB Nation sites still painted by Vox (respect), to learn more about Atlanta United, which New York City FC face tomorrow for the second time this season: Here’s your NYCFC vs Atlanta preview.
1. 6th place? They’ll take it
Hudson River Blue: Atlanta United currently sit in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 28 points after 18 games. We’re only at the midpoint of Gonzalo Pineda’s second full season as head coach, but is this where the team should be? What’s the mood in the stands at the Benz?
Joe Patrick: If you were to have presented Atlanta’s current position to fans at the beginning of the season, most would definitely take it given where this team has been for the majority of the past three years. However, the team went through a rough spell recently when they’ve been without Giorgos Giakoumakis due to a hamstring injury. But since he’s been back, the team has been better and results have come with it.
2. A DP left this week
HRB: Luiz Araujo and United suddenly parted ways this week. It’s unusual for a Designated Player to leave mid-season, but he seemingly never lived up to expectations. Any regrets? Or is it good riddance?
JP: Without being mean, Atlanta United fans will be happy to see Araujo’s exit. When he came to the club he showed flashes of his tremendous individual skill, but over time it became clear that his style of game did not fit well with Pineda’s game model. The main reason fans will be happy with his leaving is, obviously, that it presents an opportunity for the club to reinforce with a Designated Player at a position of need — although they will be shorthanded in the meantime until the transfer window finally opens.
3. Hollowed out by international duty
HRB: Thiago Almada is one of the best players in MLS, and NYCFC fans know all-too-well what Giakoumakis is capable of doing. Who should NYCFC fans look out for tomorrow?
JP: Those two players have indeed carried Atlanta United this year, and neither will play due to international duty. In fact, Atlanta is expected to be without as many as eight players including Miles Robinson, Luis Abram, Derrick Etienne, and Jay Fortune. So it’s an ideal time for NYCFC to be coming to Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
4. The X-Factor:
HRB: What’s the X-factor that could decide the game?
JP: Aside from all the players who will find opportunities Wednesday since so many First Team players are out (at least two attacking players are expected to be on the bench from Atlanta United 2), Brad Guzan will help determine the result. In recent games, he’s been both a sieve and a brick wall — with the latter being the most recent. He’s certain to face a fair few shots coming his way due to the inexperience and incohesion in front of him, so he has an opportunity to win Atlanta United some points.
5. Atlanta Starting XI
HRB: Prediction time: Starting XI, final score?
JP: Predicted score: 1-3 NYCFC
Rob Usry (Managing Editor, Dirty South Soccer): 0-5 NYCFC