Minnesota United heads to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for a rematch against the Loons’ expansion brothers, Atlanta United. We all know how the last match ended, so we caught up with Dirty South Soccer to get a little more information on the season since the Snow Game.
1. Atlanta has been fun to watch (as painful as it is to say,) but which player that may not get the attention has surprised you the most?
Jeff. Freakin’. Larentowicz. Not a lot was expected from him when he joined us from the Galaxy. Perhaps he’d play as a sub and come in for a striker in late match situations to help preserve a lead. We were deeply mistaken.Larentowicz and his midfield partnership with Carlos Carmona has become a fortress for Atlanta, not allowing opposing play to build through the middle of the pitch. However, that was expected from Carmona considering his Serie A experience. It wasn’t expected from a 34-year-old MLS veteran.
2. Can Atlanta sustain this success into the playoffs?
If they continue to play at home, anything is possible. Their form since moving to Mercedes-Benz Stadium has been phenomenal. It’s their away form that is a little concerning, with less than impressive showings at New England, Philadelphia, and Kansas City.
The big thing for Atlanta is they have to be close to fully fit. That’s easier said than done considering they’ve played 8 matches in 23 days, but missing Miguel Almiron and potentially Greg Garza due to injury are major losses that could be sorely missed come playoff time.
3. What moves need to happen in the offseason to ensure that Atlanta has a good sophomore season?
It’ll be really interesting to see what Atlanta does with Yamil Asad and Garza. They’re both currently on loan from Velez and Tijuana respectively, but they’ve been tremendous this season for the Five Stripes. Ideally we sign both to permanent deals considering they have options to buy, and if that doesn’t happen, we need to find replacements for either or potentially both.
Anton Walkes is also a question mark. The Tottenham loanee has done well since winning the starting right back role, but doesn’t have an option to buy like the other two. However, Tottenham seem to be enjoying seeing a promising prospect get consistent minutes, so perhaps they extend the loan. That would be welcomed.
The last thing I can think of is finding suitable understudies for Michael Parkhurst and Larentowicz. Although they’ve both been terrific, they aren’t getting any younger. Larentowicz just turned 34, and Parkhurst is creeping up on that age as well. Finding young talent that can grow under their tutelage would be a smart investment for the future.