The Five Stripes will play nine of their next 10 games against teams above the playoff line.
Things haven't been easy for Atlanta United this season: four players are on the season-ending injury list (including the starting goalkeeper, World Cup-bound center back, and veteran defensive midfielder) and another three (all fullbacks) are expected to miss significant amounts of time (two to four months). The team's attacking talent has recently started to click, but their efforts are sometimes negated by defensive mistakes that have led to the team dropping points in games where they should have been earning three.
And things are about to get much harder.
Looking at the table, Atlanta is currently 10th in the east with 19 points in 15 games. This puts them four points away from a playoff spot, seven points from hosting a playoff game, and 10 points from the top. Now, let's take a look at the next ten games coming up for the Five Stripes:
6/30: at New York Red Bulls (4th in the east, seven points above Atlanta)
7/3: at New York City FC (2nd in the east, eight points above Atlanta)
7/9: vs Austin FC (3rd in the west, nine points above Atlanta)
7/13: vs Real Salt Lake (2nd in the west, 10 points above Atlanta)
7/17: vs Orlando City SC (5th in the east, six points above Atlanta)
7/24: at LA Galaxy (6th in the west, five points above Atlanta)
7/30: at Chicago Fire FC (last in the east, five points below Atlanta)
8/6: vs Seattle Sounders (7th in the west, four points above Atlanta)
8/13: at FC Cincinnati (7th in the east, four points above Atlanta)
8/17: vs New York Red Bulls (...again)
Yeah, it's about to get real hard real fast. After those games, Atlanta will have just nine games to get themselves above the playoff line.
While playing against teams that are higher in the standings is obviously more of a challenge, it also presents the opportunity for Atlanta's wins to make more of an impact. A win against an opponent with more points ensures that they don't add to their total while Atlanta does.
Some more good news is that the transfer window is right around the corner and Atlanta's highly awaited signings - center back Juan Jose Purata and goalkeeper Raúl Gudiño - will finally be able to hit the field and (hopefully) help alleviate some of the defensive woes that have plagued the team throughout the season. Atlanta has also been linked to the transfer of a young Colombian winger named Edwin Mosquera as a U22 initiative signing to provide depth at the winger position, something the team could use seeing how Ronaldo Cisneros doesn't seem particularly adept for the role. The team hasn't given any indication that those will be the only moves they make during this window, so there is a possibility of more to come.
Atlanta's schedule from here on out will not get any easier, but - despite the crazy amount of injuries - the team certainly has the talent and ability to make it to the playoffs this season. All Atlanta needs to do is try to tread water until they can assemble some consistency, hopefully appease whatever entity they pissed off that's cursing the team with all of these injuries, and turn this season around in the second half.
The Braves did it last year, and I think Atlanta United can do it this year.