The defending MLS champs are coming to town. They come to face a depleted Sporting Kansas City side who hasn’t won a game since March. Someone is going to have to step up in a time of need if SKC want to break out of this slump.
1. It hasn’t been the start Atlanta United envisioned after winning MLS Cup last year. Head Coach Frank de Boer has been taking a lot of heat - is that where you are placing blame as well?
Part of it certainly does fall at the feet of de Boer because, after all, he is the one that puts the lineups together and decides the tactics each match. Atlanta have not resembled the offensive force that it was during its first two years in the league, scoring just 6 goals in 8 games as it appears to be in the midst of a switch to a more possession-based style. His critics have lashed out and have expressed displeasure with what they feel is a misuse of the attacking talent on this team; they may have a point as, again, Atlanta have scored just 6 goals in MLS play, well off the pace of its 70 goals in both 2017 and 2018.
I think you have to factor in the absence of Miguel Almiron, who was sold to Newcastle United in the offseason. He really was a talisman for the Atlanta offense and is a player whose presence is missed in this lineup. Perhaps with him still here playing under de Boer, the results would be a little different and they’d have a few more wins, but we’ll never know.
2. Pity Martinez was the blockbuster signing in the off season and hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations quite yet. But now he is back to being fully fit. Is he set for a breakout match on Sunday?
Hopefully for Atlanta’s sake he starts to resemble the player that was named the South American player of the year in 2018. For some reason, whether it’s his fitness or lack of chemistry with his teammates, it just hasn’t clicked for him. He had quite a heated reaction after he came out in favor of Tito Villalba around the 71st minute which made its way around social media (which I chalk up to frustration and not necessarily a rift between him and the team).
All that said, Atlanta needs him to pick up his play soon if they’re to move forward. Whether that’s as a 10 (which Frank de Boer has said is his preferred position) or as an LW remains to be seen, but he’s well behind where the fans and teams hoped he’d be by now.
3. There are a lot of big names on Atlanta’s squad. Who is a player that Sporting fans may not be aware of, but should be?
I’ve really liked the emergence of Miles Robinson. He came on strong during Atlanta United’s playoff run and has settled in beside Leandro Gonzalez Pirez as the other center back on this team. His poise, pace, and maturity have made it hard to keep him out of the lineup - and it’s good that Frank de Boer continues to give him plenty of opportunities for him to prove himself. I really think that Krisztian Nemeth and the rest of Sporting KC’s attack will have their hands full with him throughout the evening.
You also can’t count out Julian Gressel. Gressel’s been a little bit out of form over the past few matches, but before long he’ll return to the play that made him one of the club’s more underrated stars over its first two-plus seasons.