Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer faces an interesting challenge: Not only must he select a lineup for Thursday’s Champions League game that will be strong enough to overturn a 3-1 deficit to Herediano, he must keep in mind that the team will open defense of its MLS Cup on Sunday at D.C. United.
It’s likely too much to ask the same players to expend enough energy to defeat Herediano by at least 2-0, the easiest margin it needs to advance, but then to fly to Washington to face a D.C. United squad that has had their number the previous two seasons.
So, who will de Boer select for his starting 11 on Thursday? He said on Wednesday that he’s going to select the strongest possible lineup because the team wants to advance.
“We are concentrating on that and then we will see who is coming out fresh,” de Boer said. “A good result always helps. We are concentrating first on Herediano.”
The team will be without fullback George Bello and Franco Escobar and midfielder Kevin Kratz.
Here’s who I think de Beor will start on Thursday:
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who kept last week’s score from ballooning with several solid saves.
Centerback Miles Robinson, who was the best of the back three last week. I think he may slide to the right this week to take advantage of his athleticism.
Centerback Michael Parkhurst, who I think may slide from the right back into the middle, where he flourished last season.
Centerback Leandro Gonzalez Pirez.
Right wingback Julian Gressel, who scored last week’s lone goal.
Left wingback Brek Shea, who will start in place of Bello.
Defensive midfielder Eric Remedi, who will operate as a singular defensive midfielder, instead of the two that were used last week.
Midfielder Darlington Nagbe, who will start in place of Jeff Larentowicz. Atlanta United needs to score and Nagbe’s skillset is better suited for that purpose than Larentowicz’s.
Left winger Ezequiel Barco, who needs to shoot.
Right winger Pity Martinez, who needs to shoot.
Striker Josef Martinez, who will shoot.