Finally wrapping up a tumultuous and very forgettable season.
Atlanta United will face New York City FC on Sunday during a decision-day matchup that really holds no significance to the Five Stripes who find themselves eliminated from the playoffs.
There's no more hope, no more possibilities or calculations to make. Atlanta will miss the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, and - frankly - it's no less than they deserve. The big questions surrounding this game are mainly about who might be stepping onto the pitch at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the last time on Sunday. Notably, Josef Martinez has been the talk of the town as his frequent clashes with Atlanta's front office and head coach Gonzalo Pineda could very well be an indication that he won't be back next season.
But either way, the show must go on, so let's take a look at who Atlanta will be facing in their final match of the year.
New York City FC (15-7-11) is third in the East with 52 points in 33 games. They have 55 goals for and 40 against. They have 58.4 total expected goals this season (third highest in the league) and 37.9 expected goals against (third best in the league). The pigeons were going through a bit of a rough patch, but their Campeones Cup victory over Atlas seems to have given them a massive morale boost as they have won both of their games since. The hardest hitters in NYCFC's offense are Talles Magno (7 goals, 7 assists), Santiago Rodriguez (4 goals, 10 assists), Gabriel Pereira (7 goals, 3 assists) and Maxi Moralez (2 goals, 6 assists).
Atlanta United Predicted XI
NYCFC Predicted XI
How does Atlanta win?
Sure, let me write this part of the preview where I echo the same concepts each week and internally scream when the team inevitably throws it all out the window during a game. *Sigh* covering this team isn't easy.
This game means nothing for Atlanta. They are literally just playing out of obligation because NOTHING THEY DO WILL MATTER!!! Seeing as they have nothing to lose, they might as well go full throttle and throw all they've got into the offense. Try to outscore NYCFC, preferably by more than two goals since it seems like Atlanta concedes two or more goals 90% of the time. Play some homegrown, try out new tactics and just give the fans something fun to watch.
I will make one big point here though: PLAY JOSEF MARTINEZ. It's the last game of the season, there's no hope for playoffs anymore and all signs point to a probable departure over the winter. Give him this game to wave goodbye to the city he's given his heart and soul. Let the fans applaud him and cheer on him one last time. Give him the honor he deserves as a club legend. I hope we see him in the dressing room come March, but in case that doesn't happen, he definitely deserves a farewell befitting a king. THE KING.