I’m sure that ESPN had high hopes for today’s nationally televised match at 130pm with the New England Revolution traveling to Atlanta United. Today’s game is the first half of a double header with Seattle and Minnesota on right after at 4pm. The Shield holders walking into a packed Mercedes-Benz Stadium led by reigning MVP Carles Gil against the star studded Atlanta United roster.
But the injury list is long for this one - Gustavo Bou, Josef Martinez, and Miles Robinson among others who won’t be featuring in this match though Bou and others on the combined injury lists are on the mend.
The Revs sit just three points back of the Five Stripes in the East, with Atlanta holding onto the 7th and final playoff spot in the early going of the 2022 season. Atlanta has just one win and only 4 points from their last five games while the Revs have recovered from a horrific start which included a four game league losing streak to take 7 points from their last four games.
Last season in their Supporter’s Shield winning campaign the Revs were able to rotate well and work around injuries and grind out results even without their best starting lineup out on the field. Things have not worked out as well with extra CONCACAF Champion’s League fixtures and a glut of injuries specifically at centerback and of course Matt Turner in goal. But as the Revs have gotten healthier their performances and results on the field have improved drastically and a big road win against a team above them in the standings would do a lot of good even in May.
Atlanta faces a similar injury conundrum in both the long and short term. Miles Robinson has been one of the best players for the United States in World Cup Qualifying and replacing him for the rest of the year will be a challenge. Martinez will likely be back to full fitness in the second half of the year though Ronaldo Cisneros is doing his best to fill that attacking void. Veterans Brad Guzan and Ozzie Alonso also being out with Achilles injuries means a lot of experience isn’t on the field to settle and guide the rest of the team.
IT’S 8 O’CLOCK ON A SUNDAY MORNING IN GOD’S MEGAPOLIS AKA ATLANTA, GEORGIA— Dirty South Soccer (@DirtySouthSoc) May 15, 2022
WAKE UP AND STRETCH THOSE ACLS BECAUSE THE SUPPORTERS SHIELD WINNERS ARE COMING AND WE ARE *NOT* HAVING ANY MORE SEASON ENDING INJURIES TODAY
GET HYPE ITS MATCHDAY LETS GOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Atlanta United got a lot of things right in their early years, lifting an MLS Cup and US Open Cup in their second and third years respectfully. Both New England and Atlanta have the talent and expectations above simply making the playoffs but this season presents particularly tricky situations now for both teams. Atlanta dealing with significant season ending injuries and New England with midseason transfers out add a degree of difficulty for two teams that want and should expect deep postseason runs rather than fighting at the mid and bottom of the table.
Alas, things do not always go according to plan and here to help us sort out the bevy of Atlanta injury issues is Sydney Hunte of Dirty South Soccer. I don’t have return questions to answer but do check out David McFarland’s match preview over on their site.
1) Okay, the big one - it is likely impossible to replace Miles Robinson but who is the player most likely to take the challenge and will Atlanta make any significant tactical changes to help cover for their injured USMNT centerback?
That’s the big question! On Wednesday during the Open Cup, Gonzalo Pineda went with a CB pairing with Alan Franco and Alex De John, who has essentially been a depth piece for Atlanta since his arrival but will be in line for many more minutes with the injury to Robinson and with George Campbell still getting his feet underneath him. What I like about De John is that while he’s not been used all that much with Atlanta prior to this year, from what I’ve seen from him so far he brings a sense of calm to the backline, and with a long international career in his rearview mirror, he’s certainly seen a great deal. I feel that the Franco-De John pairing is one we’ll see against the Revs.
2) Brad Guzan is also out, meaning Professional Gentleman of Leisure Robert Shuttleworth has been starting in goal - how has the former Revs starter been in net in relief of Guzan so far this year?
He’s been OK. I really didn’t think he gave as good an account of himself as he should have against Nashville SC in the Open Cup on Wednesday. It’s funny - much of the discussion among a subset of Atlanta United have argued that maybe the sands in the hourglass of Guzan’s career are closer to running out than once thought. Granted, Guzan is turning 38 in September, and while his career is in his twilight and he’s digressed a bit from earlier years with Atlanta, he provides that leadership quality and organization skill that Shuttleworth hasn’t shown thus far with Atlanta. My thought is that it’s because Shuttleworth simply doesn’t have the experience with the club that Guzan has, but at the same time, the team’s much better in goal with Guzan than it is with Shuttleworth.
Outside of him, you have Rocco Rios Novo who infamously came in during the first leg of last year’s Concacaf Champions League against Alajuelense after Guzan’s sending off and started the second leg. He ultimately returned to his parent club of Lanus but was dealt back after Guzan’s injury. Rios Novo had seen plenty of time with ATL UTD 2 in 2021 and is 19, but I’m not bullish on giving him a go just yet at the MLS level.
3) Let’s end on a happy note, Ronaldo Cisneros had a big week with a hat trick against Chicago last week and Player of the Week honors. Talk about his addition to the team and any other bright spots worth mentioning so far in 2022.
Let’s hope that this can is the start of many goals to come from the Chivas loanee. Get this: he’d scored 13 goals in 90 appearances spanning from 2018 to 2022. He’s scored 4 goals in just 5 matches for Atlanta thus far, with his hat trick the first time he’s scored multiple goals in a match in his career. Obviously, it’s still too early to tell whether this is the start of a sustained run of success for Cisneros, but if it is, Atlanta will be a dangerous team.
Luiz Araujo is another bright spot - he and Cisneros have been able to find a bit of chemistry in their short time together, plus he had a very classy goal on the evening against Nashville. You’d like to hope if you’re an Atlanta fan that it’s the sign of bigger things to come for the Brazillian. Homegrown player Caleb Wiley has also acclimated himself nicely in the action that he’s seen with the first time this year, so that’s something to monitor as well.
Predicted XI: Bobby Shuttleworth, Mikey Ambrose, Alan Franco, Alex De John, Brooks Lennon, Santiago Sosa, Amar Sedjic, Luiz Araujo, Marcelino Moreno, Thiago Almada, Ronaldo Cisneros
Scoreline prediction: 2-1 New England