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Know Thy Enemy: Midweek Atlanta United Edition

With two home games against a couple of top teams in the Eastern Conference, it’s time to see what the New England Revolution are made of in 2018.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at New England Revolution David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Revolution have been steadily in the mid-table of the Eastern Conference standings the last few years.

Currently the Revs sit in 6th place, well ahead of Toronto FC who everyone suspects will make a charge up the standings at some point this season. Facing both the first place Atlanta United and fourth place New York Red Bulls at home this week, it’s going to be a big gut check to see just how far along Brad Friedel’s team is in his first year.week, it’s

As always, we chat with our friend Haris Kruskic from Dirty South Soccer about all things AUFC. Had I known the Braves were going to walk off against the Mets a couple of times this week I would’ve maybe asked a bonus question but instead we’ll just have to chat about a few old friends and a surprising home losing streak for the Five Stripes.

You can check out my answers to Haris’ questions over on their site where I mostly talk about why Gillette Stadium is weird.

TBM: Has Atlanta gotten over the disallowed goal against RBNY (that I think was a foul FWIW) because if I’m seeing this right...is that a two game home losing streak for the Five Stripes? Is that a first? Is something wrong or is that just a rough patch in the schedule facing SKC and the Energy Drinks in the same month?

HK: Yes, that is the first time Atlanta has ever lost two home matches in a row. Fans probably haven’t gotten over that disallowed goal, as they’ve ripped VAR to shreds over the past week or two because of it(I agree it was a foul, even if it was unintentional). The players are doing their best to get over it, as Jeff Larentowicz came out a couple days later and said he thinks they let their emotions get the better of them in the second half of the last match.

I wouldn’t say anything is wrong yet. Atlanta had their chances to win both matches, but as Larentowicz put it, I just think they need to control themselves a little better because these VAR calls are going to continue to haunt us during certain matches. They need to stay composed when it happens.

TBM: We know the big stars ATL has in Martinez, Almiron, etc., but who are a few under the radar guys who have been playing well?

HK: Even though he’s still getting back into the swing of things after a hamstring injury, Tito Villalba is a very pacy forward that adds another element to Atlanta’s already lethal attack. Although he used to be a Designated Player, I feel like Villalba’s still largely overlooked and seen as “the other guy” when compared alongside Miguel Almiron, Ezequiel Barco, and Josef Martinez.

It’s been a bit of a weird season for him so far. Since Tata Martino began implementing a 3-5-2 to compliment Atlanta’s typical 4-3-3, Villalba has started less often simply because Martino prefers Julian Gressel to play the wingback role that demands more defensive duties. This has obviously resulted in less consistent starts and minutes for Tito. However, if he plays on Wednesday and Atlanta comes out in the 4-3-3, I think his combination of speed and precise runs off the ball could make it a long night for New England’s backline.

TBM: There’s no question, just gush about how much you love Parky and Larentowicz while I go over here to this corner and cry.

HK: I could’ve easily mentioned these two in the last question, but figured they deserve their own reply. I think Parky and Larentowicz are the perfect examples of players who don’t get the credit they deserve because what they’re incredibly good at doesn’t show up in the stat sheet. Parky’s best attribute is that he knows what he’s good at. He’s consistently in a position to mark an opposing attacker regardless of whether or not that attacker is faster or stronger than him(most of the time, they are).

As for Larentowicz, I keep waiting for him to hit his wall and it still hasn’t happened yet. Most of the talk all offseason was who Atlanta was going to bring in to relieve him of his starting spot. When the club couldn’t close a deal with anyone, it was worrisome to have a 34-year-old playing such a pivotal role. However, Larry really hasn’t skipped a noticeable beat since last season.

What’s the old saying? One club’s trash is another club’s treasure?

Lineup/Injuries/Predictions/Etc.

Lineup (3-5-2): Guzan, McCann, Parkhurst, Escobar, Ambrose, Gressel, Larentowicz, Nagbe, Almiron, Barco, Martinez

Injuries/Suspension: Greg Garza picked up an injury last match that looked severe. His status is unknown. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez is out due to yellow card accumulation.

Prediction: 2-1 Atlanta