This Wednesday, Supporters’ Shield contenders, Atlanta United (9-3-3), are looking to continue their 4-match undefeated streak in MAPFRE Stadium against the Columbus Crew SC (7-3-6).
The Crew have managed to string together impressive draws in their last few games, including a 2-2 draw in their match against the Chicago Fire in the U.S. Open Cup, which they ultimately lost in a penalty shootout. What’s more impressive, however, is Columbus’ ability to stay competitive throughout the match. There hasn’t been a true moment in any match this season where the Columbus Crew has been decisively outmatched or have not been favorites. The Columbus Crew SC are currently sitting comfortably in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference standings, only 1 point away from 2nd which is occupied by New York City FC, and 3 points away from 1st place.
No Almiron, No Party
Although it’s not guaranteed that he’ll be out for sure, the big news coming into this week’s match is the possible absence of Miguel Almiron due to a shoulder injury that he incurred last Saturday in the match against New York City FC.
So just how does Atlanta United add up without their popular playmaker on the pitch? Let’s take a look back at the other times Atlanta has stepped on the field without “Miggy.”
Bring in the Rookie of the Year
Last year, Miguel Almiron missed 3 matches due to a left hamstring injury. This injury caused Almiron to miss not only 3 regular season matches during the months of September and October but it also stopped him from playing the final 2 CONMEBOL (South American) World Cup Qualifying matches. During this time, Atlanta United’s go-to options for these 3 matches to replace Almiron was Tito Villalba and Julian Gressel. In these matches, Atlanta United only lost once, to Minnesota United FC, in a very close game. There’s no reason to worry, though. While Gressel was filling in for Miguel Almiron, he solidified his case for Rookie of the Year and racked up 2 goals in 3 appearances.
E-Z as Ezequiel
Another option that Atlanta United has that they did not have available last year is Ezequiel Barco. Barco has more than proved his MLS record breaking transfer fee with flashy skills and quick plays that make him almost impossible to mark if you’re on the opposing team. It’s no secret that Barco has become a danger man and a player to keep all eyes on, all the time. With everyone’s eyes on Barco, he can spread the field to the wide areas of the pitch and serve the ball forward. As a playmaker, Barco’s attacking aggressiveness can also set the tone for the other players on the field.
There’s no doubt that Columbus will be looking to take advantage of the fact that Atlanta is Miggy-less, but if the U. S. Open Cup last week taught us anything, it’s that Atlanta United has players with diverse qualities and skills, both on the field and on the bench, so we’ll more than hold our own.
Arturo Principe | @ArturoPrincipe1
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