It was a slow start to life under Frank de Boer but despite the supposed unrest going on behind the scenes, Atlanta are in a very good place on the pitch right now. In the week we saw them beat Orlando at the Exploria Stadium to book their place in the final of the U.S. Open Cup thanks to goals from Eric Redemi and Bournemouth loanee Emerson Hyndman. That victory will now see them face Minnesota United in the final, but first they have to look to this weekend as they will host NYCFC on Sunday evening.
The Mercedes Benz Stadium will be rocking as Atlanta look to continue their rampant home form against Domènec Torrent’s New York side. In the last twelve games at home, the Five Stripes have only failed to win once and that was an enthralling 3-3 draw at the hands of the Red Bulls, thus showing the dominance they have shown in familiar surroundings. Recent form in this fixture also favours Atlanta United with three wins and two draws in their six meetings with the most recent being a 3-1 victory back in Tata Martino’s reign. On the other side of the fixture, NYCFC have lost three and drawn two of their previous ten fixtures away from home which again points to De Boer’s team being the favourites in this one.
Josef Martinez missed out on the U.S. Open Cup semi-final due to injury but it is projected that he will return to the side for this MLS clash. In other team news, Barco was replaced early in the second half of the midweek game and it remains to be seen if that was a tactical move or if there was an underlying issue at play. Obviously we saw Brek Shea suffer a season-ending injury last month in the 2-1 loss to Seattle but besides this though, everybody that would be in contention to play is fit.
It was good to see Hyndman score his first MLS goal for the club versus Orlando, the youngster has pleased De Boer greatly in his short time at the club so far. In contrast, NYCFC have three notable absentees and before this game they returned to the Bronx last night to take on the Houston Dynamo. Joe Scally remains side-lined following his hip surgery and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi is still recovering from an ankle injury. A back injury is keeping Ben Sweat out as it caused him to be subbed in Saturday’s battle with RSL but it’s not all doom and gloom as new defender Eric Miller made his debut against the Dynamo in the 3-2 win. The hero was substitute Valentin Castellanos who scored twice late on to overturn the deficit.
Whilst the loss of Miguel Almiron was being felt massively at the start of the season, the improving form of Pity Martinez as well as the attacking outlet of players such as this season’s top assister Julian Gressel has helped plug the gap. Pity was linked to a move away, potentially for a loan or permanently, but now it seems that any problems off the pitch are in the past and he is starting to become more of a prevalent force in the Atlanta United side. He forced an own goal to open the scoring in the 3-0 victory over L.A. Galaxy last Saturday plus he scored and assisted from the bench in the dramatic 2-0 win versus a Rooney-less DC United a couple of weeks back. As previously mentioned, Josef is on great form in front of goal plus Justin Meram has hit the ground running since he joined from the Columbus Crew; in his ten Atlanta games he has netted three times.
Atlanta come into this on great home form and they have a couple more days than their opponents for Sunday between games. Josef should be fully rested and the king will be looking to break his own record of consecutive games scored in, as a goal at the Mercedes Benz will make it a crazy nine in a row. New York have some solid players in front of goal though so they’re not to be undermined but of course Brad Guzan and co will be expected to take all three points in this one.