Match: Atlanta United vs. NYCFC
Date and Time: Sunday, Aug 11 at 4:00pm ET
Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Line: Atlanta United-136 | Draw +290 | NYCFC +330
Third place NYCFC is coming to town to battle second place Atlanta United, the top deck is open and tickets are going like __ (insert favorite Atlanta or Southern food here). This game is set up so well it could be an MLS regular-season game to excite even Zlatan!
And if not, why not? Both teams are coming off wins and looking to chase down first place Philadelphia Union (42 points) as we head into the business end of the season.
After a slow start to the campaign, 2018 MLS Golden Boot winner Josef Martinez is back leading the Atlanta attack. Don’t look now Carlos Vela, but Martinez has scored in nine consecutive matches, tying his MLS record.
That scoring run has Martinez, who set the single season league record last year with 31, on 18 goals, just four behind Vela.
Atlanta is, of course, a different team this year without Miguel Almiron and with Frank de Boer behind the bench in place of Tata Martino.
Gone too is Atlanta’s expansive, easy on the eye style. The switch to de Boer’s more rigid ways took some adjusting to for 2018 MLS Cup Champions, as they seemed to be asking if it’s not broke, why fix it?
The one player that has benefitted from the new way is center back Miles Robinson, a 22-year-old American that finds himself in contention for the U23/Olympic team, having become a regular under de Boer, playing all 24 of United’s games in 2019, starting 23.
Interestingly, Robinson’s situation is a virtual echo of the one James Sands faces with NYCFC. Sands also went from a spare part under Torrent and his successor Partick Vieira in 2018 to a key piece of the puzzle for his club, starting at the center of a three-center back set.
Sands missed some time recently with a broken arm and Torrent rested the 19-year-old for Thursday night’s 3-2 win over Houston but expect the Rye, New York native back in the lineup Sunday against Martinez and company.
Sands is teamed with veterans Maxime Chanot and Alexander Callens with the experienced pair also providing some beef that the 5’11” Sands, listed at 162 pounds lacks, allowing the former midfielder to showcase his ball-playing skills from the center of the defense.
It was a big moment for NYC against Houston when Maxi Moralez checked into the game Thursday night, mere moments after 10 man Houston had taken a 2-1 lead with a Mauro Manotas goal, decidedly against the run of play.
Moralez is the key to New York’s attack, teaming with Alexandru Mitrita and striker’s Heber and Valentin Castellanos who came off the bench to score the tying and winning goals versus Houston.
Atlanta has been extremely reliant on Martinez for goals this season. The Atlanta marksman’s 18 goals are a far cry from the four each tallied by Julian Gressel and Ezequiel Barco, next on Atlanta’s goals list.
Barco has yet to live up to the hype generated by his big money move to Atlanta prior to the 2018 season. Doubts were swirling around Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez earlier this season, but the tide seems to be turning. If Pity is synched up with Josef Martinez come playoff time, then Atlanta could mount a serious defense of its title.
As for Sunday, Atlanta’s home record of 9 wins, 1 loss, and 3 draws makes United a favorite against any team coming into Mercedes Benz, with the possible exception of LAFC. New York should make it tough on United and a draw isn’t out of the question, but with 70,00 plus screaming fans behind them Atlanta should enjoy some home cooking come Sunday.