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Match Preview: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Atlanta United

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MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps at Atlanta United FC Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Vancouver Whitecaps will look to make it 3 in a row against 2018 MLS champions Atlanta United. Atlanta experienced their first bit of adversity in their 3 year history when it turned out they may have hired the wrong manager to make their star studded lineup tick (sigh). Thus one of my favourite parody(?) accounts was spawned.

But they’ve come back into form having won 4 in a row. Have things turned around for Atlanta? We’ll see.

Kickoff: 7:00

TV: TSN

Atlanta United:

Atlanta United’s recent form may be a bit of paper tiger. They have won four games in a row but only one of those wins was against a playoff team. In fact Atlanta’s record against playoff teams is 1W-1D-3L (for comparison’s sake Vancouver’s record against playoff teams is 1W-2D-4L so it’s not like this isn’t also true of the Whitecaps). Of course Vancouver isn’t a playoff team at the moment so maybe this a is a moot point but so far Atlanta’s points have come against the bottom feeders. Last year we saw Orlando City go on a run of form where it looked like they were a great team but all of those wins were coming against bad teams and in the end they failed to crack 30 points. I don’t think Atlanta are as bad as 2018 Orlando but the point is they aren’t as scary as four wins on the bounce may make them seem. Nevertheless they are leading the league in average possession, are second in shots per game, and sixth in shots on target. A lot of the hallmarks of good teams are there. Despite controlling so much of the play, Atlanta has only managed to score twelve goals. They’ve actually scored fewer open play goals than the Whitecaps. They have struggled to break teams down with a lot of their shots coming from outside the eighteen yard box (they have the second highest percentage of their shots from outside the box in the league). It will be an interesting to see how they match up with the league’s lowest block.

Atlanta is coming off a game against Orlando on Saturday in which they played a full strength squad and didn’t make substitutions until late in the game. It will be interesting to see how they adapt to a midweek game after a long flight. Vancouver is going to have to press this advantage in much the same way Orlando did against the Whitecaps. They are without young left backs Mikey Ambrose and George Bello. Against Orlando they played Michael Parkhurst as a left back but I would imagine he’ll be rested as he’s obscenely old. I’m not sure what they’ll do. But there is one option...

MLS: Atlanta United FC at New England Revolution Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Under Frank de Boer Atlanta first tried a 3-4-3 formation. This did not go well so they reverted to a 4-2-3-1. Atlanta have scored ten and only conceded twice while playing

4-2-3-1. It’s difficult to say who exactly will be in that formation because of the travel.

Vancouver Whitecaps:

On paper this game shouldn’t even be close. Atlanta has way more talent than Vancouver. But they’ve yet to look fully convincing under de Boer, will be fatigued, and I could see them really struggling to break Vancouver down. Atlanta has enough handicaps that I could see Vancouver, who had an extra day of rest and didn’t have to travel, snatching a win. If Brek Shea is playing left back you have to figure Venuto and Bangoura will be able to exploit the space he’ll leave for them (though to be fair even I could probably exploit Brek Shea being played at left back). One perplexing squad selection problem for Marc Dos Santos is he will likely be without Jon Erice who went down with injury at training on Monday. The Whitecaps have to youngsters who offer similar attributes in the #6 position but David Norman is out with an injury and Baldisimo isn’t fully recovered from his injury either. Dos Santos has played Felipe in the #6 role a couple of times but I think this would be a mistake. Felipe can play a good pass and doesn’t back out of a tackle but he misses on a high percentage of those tackles. This might work out ok in a 4-3-3 with Felipe in a more advanced role but I think he’d leave things to exposed as the #6. There is Andy Rose who offers more defensive ability but his passing accuracy of 74.5% is straight garbage. The MDS system requires the #6 to be able to play good passes and Rose just can’t do that. Russel Teibert would probably be my pick. His passing isn’t exactly defence splitting but he does complete most of his passes and offers defensive responsibility. He is far from ideal but I think he offers the best attributes for that role of the options available.