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Scouting the Competition: Atlanta United

Get the skinny on the Eastern Conference’s new kids on the block.

MLS: D.C. United at Atlanta United FC Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

New York City FC pulled off an impressive 3-2 victory against Columbus Crew SC this past weekend on the road and without captain David Villa. Jack Harrison scored twice, Andrea Pirlo sat (!), and Ben Sweat (!!!) was one of three first-time starters that helped the good guys take all three points in a crucial game.

The Boys in Blue are back in action at home Sunday and hoping to ride some good form as they take on expansion side Atlanta United.

Last Time We Played...

Was never. Sunday’s match will be the first meeting all-time between the two clubs. Nothing to see here, carry on.

What’s Happened Since

While we haven’t played yet, we can still use this section to provide quick history of this Atlanta side. The MLS awarded the franchise in April of 2014, and they’ve been building towards this season ever since.

Over the summer, the team filled out their roster, adding a mix of talent from all manner of backgrounds. The designated played slots have been filled by three internationals: forward Josef Martinez, attacking midfielder Miguel Almiron, and winger Hector Villalba.

Atlanta also signed deals with big name players, notably former Premier League striker Kenwyne Jones, and U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who will be coming over from Middlesbrough after the Englishs season wraps. ATL sprinkled in some MLS talent as well, adding veterans Michael Parkhurst and Jeff Larentowicz.

Atlanta has gotten off to a relatively strong start to this season, all things considered. The expansion team has netted 11 points from its first 8 games, with wins over Minnesota United, Chicago Fire, and Real Salt Lake. So far, Tata Martino’s boys are scoring in droves, with 18 tallies on the year. Only the defending champion Seattle Sounders have managed to hold them scoreless.

How They Play

Matino, who has coached the likes of Bacelona and the Argentina National Team, brings a high tempo, attack-minded style to Atlanta. The team looks to control possessions and has no issues starting from the back. Center backs Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and Michael Parkhurst are capable and willing passers and will occasionally look to spring the attack with a long ball.

The fullbacks, especially Greg Garza, love to get forward and join up with the attack, at time leaving the defense caught out on the counter. Larentowicz and Carlos Carmona provide some of the cover for the defense, holding up play and providing the link between the back line and the dangerous attacking players.

The attack centers around Miguel Almiron, who is the spark plug and the team’s most dangerous attacking threat. Villalba and Martinez can be a handful in space, while Kenwyne Jones is a massive target man who can convert chances.

Something to watch: Atlanta has had issues with temper, finishing three of their matches with only 10 men.

Player to Watch

New York City’s backline is going to have its hands full all game accounting for Miguel Almiron. Almiron, a 23-year old Paraguayan attacking midfielder, has tallied two goals and four assists in seven matches so far this season for Atlanta. According to WhoScored, his 7.33 average match rating puts him second behind Villalba for best rating with over 500 minutes played on the pitch.

The young DP will be difficult to contain this Sunday. He possesses great vision and technical passing ability, and excels when he’s running out on the break and in space. He has the foot skills to get out of dangerous situations in the final third but also the patience to finish well in and around the box.

Fun Facts

  • The team retired number 17 for its fans
  • Yamil Asad scored the team’s first ever goal in MLS
  • Atlanta is owned by a cartoon villain

Predictions from HRB

Keeping in mind this is Atlanta’s first trip to Escher painting that is Yankee Stadium, I think this tips in NYC’s favor, 3-1 to the Boys in Blue.

Here’s what the rest of HRB had to say:

Sam Dunn: “2-1 Atlanta. Kenwyne Jones has to be subbed off for vertigo after doing too many backflips. I guessed before the season that NYC would lose its first game vs. ATL, and I'm stubbornly sticking to it.”

Raf Noboa y Rivera: “2-1 Atlanta.”

Charles Dunst: “2-1 NYC.”