Predicting Atlanta United’s 11 for the MLS tournament

March 8, 2020 Atlanta: Atlanta United players hold a Martinez jersey as they take the field to play FC Cincinnati in a MLS soccer match on Saturday, March 8, 2020, in Atlanta.   Curtis Compton
March 8, 2020 Atlanta: Atlanta United players hold a Martinez jersey as they take the field to play FC Cincinnati in a MLS soccer match on Saturday, March 8, 2020, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Who will start for Atlanta United when it plays its opening game in the MLS Has Returned, For Now, Tournament in Orlando, Fla., next month?

Some important facts before the 11s are predicted:
• Josef Martinez is injured and isn't available;
• Everyone else should be healthy, unless there are more COVID-19 issues;
• That means the probable return of Miles Robinson and possible returns of George Bello, Matheus Rossetto, Edgar Castillo, Franco Escobar, George Campbell and Adam Jahn, among others.

While fantastic for the team and manager Frank de Boer, it certainly doesn’t make this task any easier because Atlanta United may have the deepest roster in the league.

Let’s start choosing personnel by first figuring out what formation de Boer will select.

Looking back to the last game the team played, way back on March 11 in a 3-0 loss at Club America in the Champions League, de Boer selected a 3-5-2:

Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan
Centerbacks: Jeff Larentowicz, Fernando Meza and Anton Walkes.
Wingbacks: Brooks Lennon and Jake Mulraney.
Midfielders: Eric Remedi, Emerson Hyndman and Mo Adams.
Forwards: Pity Martinez and Ezequiel Barco.

This was a bit of unconventional lineup that was forced because of injuries throughout the roster. It took until the second half for the players to figure out how best to work together. That was understandable.

Let’s look at the lineup de Boer selected for the previous game, a 2-1 win against Cincinnati at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. A 3-4-2-1 was used:

Goalkeeper: Guzan
Centerbacks: Laurence Wyke, Meza and Walkes.
Wingbacks: Lennon and Mulraney.
Defensive midfielders: Remedi and Hyndman.
Attacking midfielders: Martinez and Barco.
Striker: Jahn.

I think the formation used against Cincinnati likely will be what the team uses in the MLS Hey, We Are Here Tournament in Orlando.

I do think there will be one tweak, which I will explain.

Goalkeeper: Guzan.
Centerbacks: Walkes, Robinson and Meza.
Wingbacks: Lennon and Castillo.
Defensive midfielders: Remedi and Hyndman.
Attacking midfielder: Rossetto.
Attacking midfielder: Barco.
Pseudo Striker: P. Martinez.

I think Castillo will get the nod because he has vast experience in group games. Remember, this is a tournament. Advancing is necessary. But I also wouldn’t be surprised to see either Mulraney or Bello.

Rossetto will get the start as the attacking midfielder to try to be the link from Hyndman and Remedi to the front two.

I think Barco will be given freedom to roam, similar to Almiron under Gerardo Martino. Giving Barco this flexibility means that Rossetto and Hyndman will need to be more positionally aware. I think you will see them interchange positions a lot with Barco when he drops back.

Pity Martinez isn’t a true striker and won’t be in this formation. He will be the hold-up outlet, receiving the ball while the wingbacks and other move up the field. His passing acumen is such that he can split lines, then play off the player receiving the ball as a dangerous runner into the box, or outlet near the top of the box that must be watched because he will shoot from there.

What if de Boer wants to use a 4-3-3?

Goalkeeper: Guzan.
Centerbacks: Robinson and Meza.
Fullbacks: Escobar and Bello.
Defensive midfielder: Larentowicz.
Right midfielder: Manuel Castro.
Left midfielder: Mulraney.
Wide attackers: Barco and Martinez.
Striker: Jahn.

So, that’s my best guess as Atlanta United’s possible 11s.

Please share yours.

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