As great as it was to take three points last Sunday against Orlando City SC, the fact remains that nothing that happened in the land of the Simbas will matter when “The City that Never Sleeps” makes its first visit to “The City Too Busy to Hate.” So what will, and what can we all expect when NYCFC takes on Atlanta United again? Here are a couple of quick thoughts.
Georgia on My Mind: NYCFC Faces Atlanta United Again
Atlanta is on a bit of a tear
While few people north of the Mason-Dixon line – and even fewer north of the Holland Tunnel – were paying attention, Atlanta United have had two impressive matches since losing in the Bronx. When NYCFC faces Atlanta United again, the hosts will be coming off of a draw in Portland to the Timbers and a dominant win at home against Houston. As a result, both NYCFC and Atlanta have taken precisely the same number of points since they last met – though City have played one match more.
But in spite of that success, and all the praise they’ve been rightly getting about the large crowds they’re drawing, Atlanta is only .500 at home. Indeed, NYCFC’s road record is slightly better than Atlanta’s home record (though Atlanta has a slightly better goal differential so maybe it’s a wash)
Does that mean Atlanta has more momentum than City coming into Sunday’s match? Which, when combined with the roar of 40,000 home fans, could tip the balance in their favor? Perhaps. Until you remember that NYCFC have played in front of big crowds before. And that David Villa and Maxi Moralaz and Patrick Vieira are used to much more intimidating venues than Bobby Dodd Stadium. And that Atlanta-native Sean Johnson will want to put on a particularly good show for his friends and family. So maybe not.
Who’s in and who is not – Atlanta United FC
According to mlssoccer.com on May 25, Josef Martinez will still be out with a left quad injury when NYCFC faces Atlanta United again. Though that post – which went up when the injury happened – indicated that he should be back on the pitch by now
So we turn to Haris Kruskic at Dirty South Soccer who says that while he doesn’t expect Martinez to start, he wouldn’t be surprised to see him come off the bench. This sentiment was echoed, albeit somewhat tentatively, by Atlanta’s manager Gerardo Martino, as quoted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Doug Roberson.
Why does that matter? Because before going down after the third match of the season, Martinez had already scored five goals (fun fact: that’s more than half again as many as either D.C. United or Colorado Rapids have scored as a team. By week 11. Yikes.). Obviously, as their showings against the Timbers and the Dynamo indicate, Atlanta have clearly figured out other ways to score. But all the same, I’d be just as happy for a guy with this kind of fire power to take a knee when NYCFC takes on Atlanta United again .
Also, for all of those USMNT fans hoping to see Brad Guzan in goal. Yeah. Probably not. The EPL season literally just ended (although some could argue that Middlesboro’s season ended a while ago. Of course I wouldn’t say that. But I know there are some who would. And you know who you are). That said, multi-GOTW winner Miguel Almiron will be on the pitch, as undoubtedly will Carlos Carmona, who scored Atlanta’s lone goal in the Bronx. So let’s focus on them instead, shall we?
Who’s in and who is not – NYCFC
Both Blue City Radio and Jeff Weisinger reported that Ethan White, who left the Orlando match early, was fully fit on Thursday, so that’s a good thing. And Christian Araos tweeted that Ronald Matarrita was limited in training on May 25th, and that manager Patrick Vieira said he could be “pushed” to play on Sunday if his ankle responds well. On the other hand, he reported that Andrea Pirlo probably isn’t heading to Atlanta and that his knee kept him out of training. Put that together with the fact that Venezuelan wonder-boy Yangel Herrera is still on international duty, and that Khiry Shelton’s status is still up in the air, and you have an interesting conundrum for Patrick Vieira. Does he start essentially the same XI he started in Orlando? Or do we see a more radical change? My guess is probably not the latter. Vieira tried that in RSL and wasn’t happy that he didn’t have more faith in his players. Of course, there may be a reason beyond faith in his players to make some lineup moves when NYCFC takes on Atlanta United again.
An ending but also a beginning
Sunday’s match isn’t just the last of a four-game road trip. It’s also the first of a kind of brutal “three-in-a-week” soccerpalooza. Three matches in which NYCFC face three divisional rivals – the New England Revolution midweek and then the inexplicably suddenly hot Philadelphia Union (hey, I love the Union but really, what the hell is going on in Chester all of a sudden, Kevin Kinkead?).
That’s nine really important points that could have the kind of end-of-season playoff implications that keep soccer writers muttering at their laptops well into December.
That could, like an old sweet song, keep Georgia on their minds.