I’m not going to jump the gun on the season yet, but man has this been a bad start, and this week’s opponent could make things even worse.
In their first two matches, the Union have been outscored 5-1, and that one goal was a penalty converted by Marco Fabián. So far, zero goals during the run of play. Yes, they’ve had their scoring opportunities but that’s kind of the same old story. We must look forward… right? Last week’s match in Kansas City was a proverbial mish-mosh of blown chances and tough-luck calls. Fabián not only missing a penalty (credit Tim Melia with a good save), but then unavoidably coming down on Johnny Russell with his cleat, resulting in a red card suspension. The cherry on top being Jack Elliot’s own-goal late in the second half. So yes, let’s please move on… On to ugh… the 2018 MLS Cup Champions Atlanta United FC.
I don’t know about you, but I was hoping for an Atlanta win last week when they hosted FC Cincinnati. Things got off to a fast start for them as usual at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, when 2018 MLS goal-scoring-leader, Josef Martínez, scored in the 5th minute on a beautiful ball from Julian Gressel. Unfortunately for the Union, Atlanta surrendered a goal in the waning minutes and it felt like a loss for the home team. Now, they’ll be out for blood on Sunday.
Who knows… maybe they aren’t the same team without midfielder and MLS Best XI member, Miguel Almiron? His 12 goals and 14 assists won’t be easy to replace, but Atlanta has stars up and down it’s lineup to compensate. They have an excellent combination of young and old. Grizzled veterans such as Brad Guzan, Michael Parkhurst, Jeff Larentowicz, and Brek Shea. Others smack in the middle of their prime like Gressel, Martinez and Darlington Nagbe. Add to that the dynamic Argentine International, Pity Martinez, who was brought in to make up some of the offense attack that departed with Almiron. Lest we forget, 19 year-old midfielder, Ezequiel Barco could end up being the best of the bunch. They are deep, they are talented, and now after last week, they are angry.
It’s a terrible mix for the Union this week. The only saving grace could be Atlanta’s CONCACAF Champions League tilt Wednesday night. Union fans are hoping that match goes into extra time and penalties. The more worn down the Five Stripes are, the better. As for the boys in blue, coach Jim Curtin will have to execute a quality juggling act this week to avoid starting the season 0-3. Again, Fabián will have to sit this one out with his red card suspension. More bad news came down Wednesday when Curtin announced that forward, Sergio Santos, was injured during training on Tuesday. It’s a grade 2 hip flexor strain and he’ll be out at least a month. Also, Ilsinho has something that warranted an MRI but Curtin didn’t appear too concerned about it. I don’t know. Ilsinho isn’t one to recover quickly in the past so I’m not too optimistic about his fitness for Sunday.
What will we see Sunday at 7:00PM? Mark McKenzie should finally be back in the starting eleven after clearing concussion protocol. During his mid-week press conference, Curtin mentioned there’s a player he’s tried to get into a match who had an excellent preseason and who is doing a fine job every day in training. He wouldn’t mention the player by name but it’s Brendan Aaronson. Expect him to get the start in the midfield along with Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya, and if Ilsinho can’t go, Warren Creavalle. I simply can’t hold my breath for Derrick Jones anymore. A wildcard off the bench could be newly signed midfielder, Jamiro Monteiro. Curtin said it will be a close call this week whether or not he makes his debut. The only other change I’d make is the one that Union fans seem to want as well. Ray Gaddis has been decent so far but Olivier Mbaizo offers a lot more. Steady doesn’t always win the race. Usually, it’s talent.
The Union will break their open-play scoring slump this week but the Atlanta offense will just be too much.
Atlanta United FC: 2
Union Man of the Match
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Mandatory Credit: Atlanta United