Breaking down Atlanta United’s opponents with MLS season resuming

Atlanta United midfielder Emerson Hyndman #20 in action during the first half of the 2020 MLS season opener between Atlanta United FC and Nashville SC at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee, on Saturday February 29, 2020. (Photo by Jacob Gonzalez/Atlanta United)

Credit: Emerson Hyndman

Credit: Emerson Hyndman

Looking at Nashville, Miami and Orlando

Atlanta United schedule

After these six games, the team is expected to play 12 more:

Aug. 22 vs. Nashville, 7 p.m. (Fox Sports South)

Aug. 26 at Miami, 8 p.m. (Fox Sports South)

Aug. 29 vs. Orlando, 3:30 p.m. (Univision)

Sept. 2 vs. Miami, 7 p.m. (FS1)

Sept. 6 at Orlando, 7:30 p.m. (Fox Sports South)

Sept. 12 at Nashville, 8:30 p.m. (Fox Sports South)

Nashville (@NashvilleSC)

Dates of games: Aug 22 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Sept. 12 at Nissan Stadium.

Record: 0-2-0.

Record against Atlanta United: 0-1-0 with a 2-1 loss in the season-opening game.

Manager: Gary Smith.

Likely formation: 4-2-3-1.

Key players: Walker Zimmerman, centerback, one goal, five shots.

Hany Mukhtar, midfielder, six shots.

Randall Leal, forward, seven shots.

Analysis: This team hasn’t gotten off to the best start with just one goal scored in its opening two games and then it wasn’t allowed to compete in the MLS tournament in Orlando, Fla., because too many players tested positive for COVID-19. Still, it gave Atlanta United all it could handle in the opening game of the season, and that was against a Five Stripes team that included Josef Martinez for the majority of the game. Nashville has good pieces in place, it just needs time to develop chemistry and for someone to lead the front line, something none of the players in that group have shown they can do consistently in their careers.

Inter Miami (@InterMiamiCF)

Dates of games: Aug. 26 at Lockhart Stadium and Sept. 2 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Record: 0-5-0.

Record against Atlanta United: No previous meetings.

Manager: Diego Alonso.

Likely formation: 4-2-3-1.

Key players: Rodolfo Pizarro midfielder, two goals.

Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, centerback, former Atlanta United player signed before MLS tournament.

Lewis Morgan, midfielder/forward, nine shots, three on target.

Analysis: While Nashville can’t score, Miami has shown a total inability to stop opponents from scoring with eight goals allowed — tied for second-most among teams in the Eastern Conference. Hence the signing of Gonzalez Pirez to try to strengthen a centerback group that is very slow. Pizarro and his teammates are still figuring out how to play together. They have shown flashes of magic, but those have been offset by silly turnovers leading to dangerous counter-attacks. The young talent the team accumulated with Wil Trapp, Matias Pellegrini, Robbie Robinson and Julian Carranza has yet to show. Miami also features former Atlanta United players Mikey Ambrose and Brek Shea.

Orlando (@OrlandoCitySC)

Dates of games: Aug. 29 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Sept. 6 at Exploria Stadium.

Record: 2-1-2.

Record against Atlanta United: 0-6-2 in league games and 0-1-0 in U.S. Open Cup games.

Manager: Oscar Pareja, first season with Lions.

Likely formation: 4-2-3-1.

Key players: Nani, forward, likely winner of MLS tournament MVP.

Chris Mueller, forward, four goals in regular season.

Pedro Gallese, goalkeeper, 14 saves.

Analysis: This isn’t the Orlando of old, a franchise that has yet to make the MLS playoffs since joining the league in 2015. Pareja has the team playing confidently and with a free-flowing style that is fun to watch and must be fun to play. Nani looks more like the player from the first two months of last season than the one who disappeared in the final months. Mueller is proving to be a handful in MLS because of this speed and aggressiveness. The team’s biggest improvement may be on defense where it’s not making the same silly mistakes that have plagued it previous years.