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Charlotte FC's projected starting XI vs Atlanta United

By Ryan Donahue

Photo courtesy of CJ Hellner/TopBin90

Coming off the back of a disappointing defeat on the road to New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night, Charlotte FC will be looking to get back on track against Atlanta this Sunday.

Atlanta, who have struggled so far this season, picked up a significant win against Inter Miami midweek which will surely give them a boost as they head back to Mercedes-Benz Stadium this weekend.

Despite the disappointing result against the Red Bulls, Dean Smith felt that the 3-1 result was an unkind score for his team in a match where Charlotte did maintain control for large parts of the first half before a weather warning delayed the restart of the game for over an hour. In the second half, Charlotte struggled to retain the same level of control and eventually conceded to Emil Forsberg off a set piece.

Before New York, Charlotte had not conceded a goal since April 27 establishing them as one of the best defensive teams in the league. For Charlotte to get a result against Atlanta this weekend, the side must put the most recent performance behind them.

Ahead of the weekend matchup, our team assessed how Smith could potentially line his side up on Sunday.

Defensively, Smith will not likely change much with Andrew Privett and Adilson Malanda as the center-back partnership. Nathan Byrne will also likely retain his spot. On the left, Jere Uronen could be available. Smith made it appear that he is close to returning in his press conference yesterday. João Pedro is likely to be out, Smith could use Jaylin Lindsay if Uronen is unable to start.

In the midfield, Ashley Westwood will lead the side with Nikola Petković, Brandt Bronico, or Djibril Diani filling the other two central positions.

Up front, Smith might have to do some rotating as he reported in yesterday's presser that Patrick Agyemang is dealing with a knock from a tackle during Wednesday night's game. If Agyemang is unable to go then Smith is likely going to rotate one of his wingers centrally. One of Iuri Tavares, Tyger Smalls, or Brecht Dejaegere are the most likely candidates to replace the 2023 SuperDraft pick.

It will be interesting to see who Smith opts to move centrally, as Liel Abada has also said he does not mind playing center-forward.

On Wednesday, Smith reintroduced Ben Bender into the first team for the first time and was rewarded with a goal although it had little effect on the game's outcome. With Bender continuing to gain fitness, Smith could look to bring him off the bench again if the side is seeking a goal in the later stages of the match.

If Charlotte is to be successful against Atlanta, stopping Thiago Almada in the midfield will be critical to slowing down Atlanta’s attack. Like the Galaxy at home, Smith may see Bronico as the best midfield option to track Almada similar to his tactics deployed against Riqui Puig earlier this season.

While Atlanta on the road will be a difficult game, if Charlotte can rekindle their defensive form before New York it will be tough for Atlanta to find clear scoring opportunities. A strong defensive performance combined with Charlotte’s first-choice front three available could be exactly what the side needs to get three points on the road.

Projected starting XI