The Five Stripes look to start the season off strong against a Western Conference foe.
Atlanta United will face San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday in their 2023 season opener at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The match is set to kick off at 7:30 pm and can be watched through MLS Season Pass on Apple TV or you can follow my live Twitter updates throughout the game.
The Five Stripes have played the Quakes three times, beating them on each occasion. In those three games, Atlanta has outscored San Jose 11-6. Interestingly, on both occasions that Atlanta United hosted the Bay Area club, the visitors received two red cards.
Atlanta wrapped up its preseason with a 1-3-1 record without its full range of talent available, most notably Giorgos Giakoumakis, Derrick Etienne Jr and Luis Abram. Miguel Berry, the club's most recent signing, arrived after the last preseason game, so Saturday will likely be the first time we see him in action.
Even with a few absences, the impressive preseason form of players like Luiz Araujo, Thiago Almada and Andrew Gutman leaves much to look forward to. If Araujo's six-goal contribution during the preseason is anything to go by, we may be about to witness a very productive season from the Brazilian winger.
A look at San Jose's offseason activity reveals a few newcomers, most notably Jonathan Mensah from the Columbus Crew, Carlos Gruezo from FC Augsburg and Gremio defender Rodrigues. These kinds of signings seem to be an indication that head coach Luchi Gonzalez is looking to reinforce the defense after a season in which they conceded 69 goals, the second-highest in the league. With the announcement earlier this month that center-back Nathan Cardoso sustained an ACL injury, the team very much could use the added depth.
The Quakes played friendlies against New York City FC, Monterey Bay, DC United, Minnesota United and New York Red Bulls. They finished their preseason with a 3-1-1 record and outscored opponents 10-5. Of those 10 goals, three came from Argentine winger Cristian Espinoza who also happened to be the team's top assister and one of the top scorers last season.
Some of San Jose's more impactful players from last season include Jeremy Ebobisse (17 g, 2 a), Cristian Espinoza (7 g, 9a) and Jamiro Monteiro (4 g, 6 a).
Atlanta United Predicted XI
San Jose Earthquakes Predicted XI
Score Prediction: 4-2 Atlanta United
If the preseason is any indication, Atlanta's attack is going to be very fun to watch this season and should theoretically be one of the higher-scoring sides in the league. Four might sound like a lot for this game, but I can see the attack putting together many chances and finding the net several times.
We have yet to see what an Abram-Robinson center-back pairing looks like, but what we have seen from the squad's defense so far has been meager at best. I'm not expecting much to change this weekend, especially since many of the problems come from the deficiency in midfield.
Nonetheless, I expect Atlanta to dominate the game for the most part. San Jose's well-rounded attack will find a couple of goals, but Atlanta's offensive talent will handily outscore the Quakes to start the season with three points.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!