With one half of the regular season down and another one to go, Atlanta United (1st in the Eastern Conference) challenge Western Conference foe, FC Dallas (2nd) this Wednesday at the Toyota Stadium.
After conceding 6 goals and 6 points in the span of 3 games, “the Toros” will host Atlanta United after their latest marginal win against Minnesota United.
The Set Up
Keeping true to its regular attacking nature, FC Dallas’ predicted formation is 4-3-3 since they have used this formation throughout the season and seem comfortable implementing it. With this setup, Dallas will look to break down the United defense and control the midfield, send its attacking players to overwhelm Atlanta’s backline and force Atlanta to make quick decisions.
However, with this formation, it’s important for the Toros to keep the ball on their feet, which will be difficult because we know how much ATL UTD loves to play possession. If FC Dallas isn’t able to keep the ball throughout its attack, it leaves them extremely vulnerable with plenty of space for Atlanta to break into.
FC Dallas has made the most of opportunities that come through set pieces in the matches they’ve won, so Atlanta needs to keep a tight, defensive shape and set the tempo of the match in order to come out on top.
The Toros may not be as consistent as they’d like to be in terms of wins, but it doesn’t take away from their ability to score and, if a defensive lapse is made, they’ll be sure to capitalize in the same way they did against “the Loons.”
FC Dallas is susceptible to counter runs and, at times, its defense can be seen scrambling back to the opposing player leading the charge.
That’s where the keeper steps in.
Last Line of Defense
Manning the woodwork for FC Dallas is 23-year-old homegrown player Jesse Gonzalez. Gonzalez had a breakout year in 2017 with outstanding performances in both club and country teams, which have carried over to his current MLS season.
Atlanta United has met with Jesse Gonzalez before in our christening of Mercedes-Benz stadium back in September 2017. In this last matchup, Gonzalez notched a season-high eight saves with five of those saves coming in the first 31 minutes.
Still, a season-high performance from Gonzalez was not enough to stop the 3-0 loss FC Dallas suffered that day. The memories of the shutout will add fuel to the fire for Dallas and with more experience under his belt, Gonzalez will be the man they look for to effectively conduct the backline.
Life Without Nagbe
With the battle for possession in the midfield, this match will be a tricky one for both sides, especially now since Atlanta United is living life without Darlington Nagbe for the second straight week. However, if last week was any indication of how well we’re handling the situation – then 17’s, we have nothing to worry about.
In last week’s matchup against Orlando City SC, midfielder Julian Gressel showed Atlanta fans that he can fill in the cleats that Nagbe left behind. With impressive work rate and great vision, Gressel orchestrated scoring plays and the eventual 4-0 winning performance from Atlanta United at home. After his quality 90 minutes on the pitch, Gressel has made it difficult for head coach Tata Martino to decide whether to give new Argentine reinforcement, Eric Remedi, starting minutes just yet.
Keeping a solid backline is key for shutting down Dallas this Wednesday and a player who has found himself as an excellent replacement for the injured Greg Garza, is Mikey Ambrose. Ambrose has made leaps and bounds since his days in ATL UTD 2 and was recently named the Man of the Match in the last game due to his defensive efforts. With Ambrose’s energy and the chemistry that he and Gonzalez-Pirez are continually building, the future of the backline looks bright.
Arturo Principe | @ArturoPrincipe1
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