By Brian Maurer
Kamil Jóźwiak dueling multiple Atlanta United defenders (Photo courtesy of Charlotte FC)
What We Have Seen So Far
Atlanta United currently sit 4th in the Eastern Conference. They have also yet to lose a home game this year (4-1-0). The Five Stripes will likely welcome Charlotte FC to the dirty south with open arms as they put three goals against the Crown in the first half of their first meeting in Charlotte. During that encounter, many of the home crowd booed Charlotte FC off the field at halftime after their display.
Young superstar, Thiago Almada, has 10 goal contributions (5g/5a) in eight starts so far this season. New designated player (DP) signing Giorgos Giakoumakis also has five goals in only five starts, making him one of the most efficient goalscorers in MLS this season. These two have helped turn Atlanta United into one of the most productive attacks in the Eastern Conference as they lead the Eastern Conference in goals scored (19).
Out: Ozzie Alonso (DM), Brad Guzan (GK), Erik Lopez (FWD), Giorgos Giakoumakis (ST), Franco Ibarra (DM)
Questionable: Luiz Araujo (FWD), Quentin Westberg (GK)
*This injury report was pulled from MLSsoccer.com (updated 5/5/23)
Player’s to Watch
Thiago Almada - Almada is at the center of Atlanta United’s attack as both a goal-creator and a scorer. He demonstrated his ability as a creator in transition moments against Charlotte in their first match-up this season. Finding a way to reduce his productivity will be pivotal to having any success against them.
Giorgos Giakoumakis - Giakoumakis’ injury situation is a key situation to monitor. If he can return for this weekend's match then Atlanta has a very efficient scorer returning to their striker position. If he is unable to go, Atlanta United will be stuck playing alternative options, and they could start to feel the momentum of the season turn on them a bit, as their form has dipped over the last couple of weeks.
Miles Robinson - The young USMNT center-back is the key to Atlanta United’s defensive backline. While his defensive presence is what predominantly stands out, his progressive passing has also been quite good this season. He started the attack with a long pass that led to Atlanta’s third goal against Charlotte in their first meeting. Cutting off passing lanes will be important for Charlotte to reduce Robinson’s impact as a distributor. With Enzo Copetti out due to yellow card accumulation, someone will need to step up and draw Robinson’s attention to help open up space for other Charlotte FC attackers.
Atlanta United’s Starting XI
Atlanta United will likely want to play a formation similar to how they played at home versus the Chicago Fire a few weeks back. Here is how they lineup up in that matchup:
Graphic found on MLSsoccer.com
When you look at the passing network of the Atlanta versus Chicago match it is clear how pivotal and how much further forward Atlanta United wants Giakoumakis. This makes the injury status all the more pivotal for a hurting Charlotte FC backline.
Graphic found on MLSsoccer.com
Graphic found on theanalyst.com**
When looking at Atlanta United’s zones of control, Atlanta shows that they are involved in my quite high up the pitch. Protecting the wings could also be a key factor as Atlanta United’s zones of control show a team that started hot and is now starting to run into a lack of depth.
Outlook for 2023
Atlanta United looks like a team that has a strong chance of earning a home playoff berth. This will depend on if they can keep Almada for the rest of the season. With the number of rumors and reports surrounding the young playmaker, this could be easier said than done. If Almada leaves in the summer, Atlanta United’s ceiling could drop considerably.
**For the zones of control, blue symbolizes areas on the field where Atlanta United has had at least 55% of total touches. Red represents areas where their opponents have had at least 55% of total touches.