Location: Exploria Stadium
Time: 8:00 PM EST
Recent Result: POR 0 - 2 ATL
Position: 1st in the East
Big game tonight. I'm attending and need to leave in an hour and a half so this is going to be short and simple. Here's your Atlanta match preview.
Per MLS Injury Report:
ATL: Shea (knee), Vazquez (hip), Remedi (hip), Escobar (leg), Ambrose (hamstring)
ORL: Higuita (hamstring), Moutinho (hamstring), Ruan (hamstring)
Keys to the Game
1. Get to half 0-0
I don't think I can stress this enough. Getting to halftime 0-0 allows us to go after the game in the 2nd half and not have to chase the game. Obviously going in with a lead would be even better but realistically 0-0 at half should be the target.
2. Stay Sharp
Atlanta are deadly on transition opportunities. When we have the ball, we must remain cognizant of our positioning at all times so as to be in the best spot to repel a counter attack. In doing so, we may suffer in the attacking third as movement would be limited but overall it would help us secure a result. All we need to do is sneak a goal in from a set piece or transition similar to the Minnesota game. That's what staying sharp is all about. It's understanding that a chance will come and we don't have to force it. We just have to play smart and not let the occasion get to us.
Win 50/50 Battles
This is probably where we will struggle the most. Atlanta love to position themselves to win the 50/50 balls in order to keep up the pressure. Mendez, Johnson, and Rosell excel at winning those battles and retaining possession for the team, so don't be surprised if those 3 form our midfield for tonight's match-up. When you win the 50/50 battles, you are able to force the other team back into their half and essentially cause them to change their system in order to counter yours, which is what you want in a game. We have to do this if we want a chance at winning tonight.
Not only is this what I think we will see from the start, I want to see this. JOC will surely go more defensive and not run with a number 10. Instead we will see the 4-3-3 with the hard working midfield trio. I can see Akindele spearheading the attack with Nani and Mueller making up a fluid front 3. The defense remains the same and everyone is ready to play their heart out.
Prediction: 1-0 Win.
I believe we will do it tonight and come out victorious for the first time ever. With the semifinals fresh in our minds, the massive crowd due to be at the game, and the fans/players raring to go, I believe we can and will come out of this match with a crucial 3 points.
'Til next time, this has been Gavin Rushnell and #VamosOrlando.