3 Atlanta United players who must step up

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

After looking at Atlanta United’s remaining home schedule, let’s look at the players who will be relied upon to help the team win as many points as possible from those games.

The team is coming off a 2-0 loss to Nashville at home. It was the seventh time it was shut out this season but the first time in seven games it was held scoreless.

The team can’t ask much more from Josef Martinez, Marcelino Moreno and Ezequiel Barco.

Martinez has scored six goals.

Moreno leads with seven goals and three assists.

Barco has four goals and four assists.

It’s time for other players to increase their production on offense to improve the probabilities of the team making the postseason.

1. Luiz Araujo, winger. The skill is evident. He can dribble in traffic on I-285. He is as fast with the ball as he is without. And he’s putting shots on target. Now, he just needs a goal or an assist.

And Atlanta United needs him to score.

In three games, he has taken eight shots, putting three on target. He really has only badly missed with one shot, which is a good sign.

It just seems like a matter of time before he goes on a scoring run.

In Atlanta United’s next game against Orlando on Sept. 10, it will likely be without striker Josef Martinez because of his call-up to Venezuela for its World Cup qualifying games.

It will need someone to become the leader on offense. Moreno remains the team’s leading scorer with seven goals but, while quality, he’s not the type of player who can take over a game.

Araujo is.

2. Amar Sejdic/Matheus Rossetto. With Santiago Sosa’s status still unknown and Franco Ibarra having not played since June 27, it stands to reason that Amar Sejdic and Matheus Rossetto will likely be the starter or starting combo in central midfield for the team going forward.

It’s especially true if the team goes with a 4-2-3-1 formation, which is what it used during the final minutes of the game against Nashville.

Neither player is a true defensive midfielder.

Sejdic has shown an ability to dictate the pace of play for periods of a game. He has also shown an ability to push the game forward. He has an npxG+A (non-penalty expected goals plus assists) of 0.15, which puts him in the 56th percentile of MLS players during the past year. He also has 1.97 shot-creating actions per 90 minutes. He has 0.0 goal-creating actions, though.

Rossetto has also shown that he can push the game forward but he typically still has an inclination to go sideways or backward with the ball.

He has 1.31 shot-creating actions and 0.09 goal-creating actions.

But put them together and they could be a quality combo with one protecting the back line and one moving forward to engage with the front four to six and provide more key passes, which can lead to goals or assists.

The team needs them to step up and lock down the center of the field while contributing to the offense and defense during this playoff push.

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

3. Brooks Lennon. For the second consecutive season, Lennon has delivered quality balls into the penalty box without a lot of end result. He has three assists with an expected assists of 3.8 from 51 key passes, with 27 completed passes (non-set pieces) into the penalty box.

That’s a lot of numbers. Boiled down, Lennon is playing a lot of balls into dangerous places.

His assists are in the 89th percentile of MLS players in the past year.

His expected assists are in the 97th percentile.

He just needs to keep going what he’s been doing because there may be more end results soon.

Manager Gonzalo Pineda said he wants to figure out how to help Araujo by providing more options for him when he has the ball. Lennon on overlaps or underlaps would be an option.