With the gas tank empty, Atlanta United faces a critical match Sunday

Mike Conti
March 07, 2019 - 8:45 am
Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan

© Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sport


MONTERREY, Mexico — A perfect storm of injuries and fatigue swept over Atlanta United Wednesday in the same way a cold fog swept over this region of Mexico.

Already thin at right wingback with the loss of Franco Escobar in January, an injury suffered Monday by Julian Gressel left the Stripes down to extremely limited options. And that was just the start of their challenges on Wednesday.

Atlanta United looked very much like a team that was playing its third match in seven days. Michael Parkhurst was running on fumes in the second half against Monterrey. But with Jeff Larentowicz the only available substitute at center-back, Parkhurst had no choice to finish out the match. As did a fatigued Darlington Nagbe. As did an exhausted Eric Remedi.

As such, a nightmare scenario played out in the final ten minutes Wednesday night. Instead of going home to Mercedes Benz Stadium trailing by a manageable one goal, they conceded two late goals and nearly a third. Now, anything short of a four goal win against a bunkering Rayados next week ends Atlanta United’s CONCACAF Champions League hopes.

Frank de Boer made it clear that he was taking a “one match at a time” approach by playing a first choice lineup at DC. Then he suffered some incredibly bad luck by seeing a player he didn’t start (Gressel) get hurt in training. Now he has a dilemma: how aggressive can he be with his lineup for an MLS match against Cincinnati that is now suddenly very critical?

Atlanta United badly needs a dose of confidence. They have lost back-to-back matches (all competitions) for the first time since June of 2017. They’ve been outscored 5-0 and rarely showed any threat of scoring. I believe they badly need a dose of confidence. And Cincinnati, an expansion team that defended poorly in a 4-1 loss last Saturday at Seattle, could be the right opponent at the right time.

But can de Boer afford to field a lineup of mainly reserves against Cincinnati? In my opinion, not anymore. And that is a problem for a team that has clearly emptied the tank over the last week.