Surely they have to win this game, right?... RIGHT??!!
Oh boy. Things are heating up in the Eastern Conference and, if you're an Atlanta United fan, alarm bells are ringing. As of the time that I am writing this, Atlanta United is 13th in the East and has 30 points in 26 games. The playoff gap has now widened and the Five Stripes are six - you heard (read?) me right - SIX points away from seventh place Inter Miami. That is equivalent to two wins with just eight games left on the calendar.
Atlanta United have the opportunity to reduce that gap to three if they can (and totally should) beat DC United at home on Sunday. If they don't... well... let's just hope they win.
DC United (6-4-16) sits at the bottom of the east with a mere 22 points in 26 games. This season, it's all gone wrong for the Black and Red, and bringing in former player and Machester United star Wayne Rooney to coach hasn't really helped much. DC have lost four of their last five games including a humiliating 6-0 defeat at home against Philadelphia. They have the third-worst expected goals (30.0) and expected goals allowed (45.0) this season and are bottom of the league in shot-creating actions per 90 (16.19). The biggest threats of DC United's attack are Taxi Fountas (11 goals, 1 assist), Ola Kamara (7 goals, 1 assist), and Nigel Robertha (1 goal, 3 assists).
Defensively, DC has one of the worst tackle success rates in the league at about 56% and is 18th in the league in total defensive actions (tackles plus interceptions) with 806.
Atlanta United Predicted XI
DC United Predicted XI
How does Atlanta win?
By not giving anything away at the back. DC might be bottom of the table, but they have some players that can and will score if given the chance. Atlanta needs to keep its composure and not concede first, which would allow DC to bunker down and make it very difficult for the Five Stripes to equalize.
On the attack, Atlanta needs to pick up the pace when they win the ball back. It's happened way too many times to count that a player carries the ball into midfield and stops when they encounter a defender instead of... ya know... passing it to someone else making a run? Often, this allows the defenders to get back and turns a promising counterattack into a wasted one. Hopefully, the pace from players like Ronaldo Cisneros and Edwin Mosquera will help Atlanta get forward faster and be more effective in these instances.