Last year, with D.C. United at the bottom of the East while Atlanta United was drawing unanimous praise, you’d expect that the newcomers would have wiped the floor with MLS’s first champions. Instead, the Black-and-Red beat ATL three times running, confounding expectations and league-wide observers every time. Today in Georgia, United will be looking for win number four against the Five Stripes, but to repeat last year’s dominance of this series, they’re going to have to execute at a higher level for 90 minutes than they did in last week’s tale of two halves in Orlando.
Key player: Luciano Acosta
United fans are surely happy to see Lucho back from suspension, both for the entertainment factor and for the boost he’ll provide in the midfield. Zoltan Stieber had a great preseason, but Atlanta’s issues with defending through the midfield make Acosta’s emphasis on the dribble a very promising quality to have in the eleven.
Acosta did well against Atlanta last year, and United will need him to help create more chances and do a better job of finishing off their attacking moves. With Atlanta’s preference for a high-press scheme, Acosta’s footwork and movement should set him up to lead the charge on the counter. If United is going to have success playing on the break, Lucho has to start his season off playing at a high level.
Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta, GA)
Kickoff time: 3:00pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4141) - David Ousted; Nick DeLeon, Frederic Brillant, Steve Birnbaum, Oniel Fisher; Junior Moreno; Paul Arriola, Ulises Segura, Luciano Acosta, Yamil Asad; Darren Mattocks
Bench: Steve Clark, Kofi Opare, Chris Odoi-Atsem, Chris Durkin, Ian Harkes, Zoltan Stieber, Patrick Mullins
Russell Canouse and Taylor Kemp are still out, while Dane Kelly only just signed and Joseph Mora does not yet have a work visa (so he can’t suit up yet). That means the only change in the entire 18 is Bruno Miranda making way for Acosta, who should start while Stieber moves into Miranda’s spot on the bench.
Projected Atlanta starting 11: (433) - Brad Guzan; Franco Escobar, Michael Parkhurst, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Greg Garza; Julian Gressel, Jeff Larentowicz, Darlington Nagbe; Hector Villalba, Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron
This lineup is based on the expectation that Parkhurst and Gonzalez Pirez are both fit. The former was apparently only fit enough to make the bench last week, while the latter had to leave the game with an injury. If either can’t start, Tata Martino will likely have to move Larentowicz back to center back, which means no actual defensive midfielder, which would be terrible for ATL and great for D.C.
There are also some possible formation changes that Atlanta could opt for, so I’d advise skepticism towards the pre-game lineup graphics.
Referee: Robert Sibiga
Available TV: ESPN
Available streaming: WatchESPN, ESPN3
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What do we have to say about it?: Filibuster spent a lot of time on Atlanta being demolished by Houston, Ben is leaning towards 4231 for this week’s United lineup, I took some time to muse over the variables for Atlanta’s squad, and our predictions...well, no one expects a draw.
What are you drinking?: I’ll be at Dock FC for our watch party, and I’ll probably be ordering a Guinness about 10 minutes before kickoff. Come on out and watch me do that! Also, you can watch the game after you see me order my beer!
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos continued dominance!