The San Jose Earthquakes continue their grueling road trip with a visit to Mercedez-Benz Stadium, home of Atlanta United. Atlanta played on Wednesday, and one of their key players has missed the last three matches but do the Quakes have enough left in their tank to play with one of the more dynamic teams in the league.
Manager: Frank de Boer
Current Record: 15-11-3 3rd in the Eastern Conference
Last Five Matches: W-W-L-L-W
Stadium: Mercedez-Benz Stadium
Guzan is a veteran keeper who has proven that he is capable of playing at the highest levels. Since joining Atlanta in the middle of 2017, Guzan’s save percentage has gotten considerably lower. Then again when your team scores 70 goals as Atlanta did in 2017 and 2018, you don’t have to be at your best every match.
Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Miles Robinson, Florentin Pogba
This is the backline de Boer sent out on August 24 when Atlanta shutout Orlando City in Orlando. He has other options which are equally capable, but this is the group I will talk about for this article. As I stated above, Atlanta is a big offensive team that relies on their big guns up top to put other teams away. None of their defensive players are near the top of the traditional defensive stats, but they still find a way to keep opposing sides off the scoresheet. They are second in the league in goals allowed (36) behind only LAFC who is having one of the best seasons in league history.
The Quakes love to take as many shots at opposing teams as possible, but we have all seen the trouble they can have getting quality shots on goal. One thing Atlanta’s defense does well is preventing teams from taking shots at Guzan’s goal which they accomplish by keeping possession for most of the game.
Julian Gressel, Darlington Nagbe, Eric Remedi, Justin Meram
This is the place in the lineup where Atlanta starts to get very dangerous. A lot of the time de Boer will have Guzan pass over his defenders and direct the ball towards Justin Meran who then leads the attack in a mad-dash. Guzan’s 258 accurate long balls are second in the league behind David Bingham, and they force the opposing team to chase Atlanta. And that is a race opposing defenders rarely win.
Once the ball is up around midfield Atlanta likes to switch up play and hand the ball over to side patrolled by Nagbe and Gressel causing their opponents to keep chasing the game. With a pass success rate of 93 percent, Nagbe is the most accurate passer of the 2019 MLS season so far. Next to him is Julian Gressel who has connected on goals with Josef Martinez seven times this season the most of any duo in the league.
Emerson Hyndman, Josef Martinez, Pity Martinez
This group would usually contain Ezequiel Barco, but he has been nursing a leg injury for the last month and may not be available for de Boer. The two Martinez’s are ready to shred any defense that stands in their way as they have all season. Pity Martinez has found his groove after a slow start to the season and is now second on the team in assists, behind Julian Gressel, with seven. Josef Martinez is a one-person wrecking crew who has scored in an MLS record 15 consecutive matches netting 21 goals in that timeframe. The Quakes are going to need to find a way to slow down and neutralize Martinez, any of the two if they want a chance at earning some points in Atlanta.
This is going to be another tough opponent on the road in a loud and intimidating environment, but the Quakes have a good chance of getting a much-needed road point on Saturday. Looking at how Atlanta has played this season it is probably going to be a fast back-and-forth match that plays into the Quakes style. That being said Atlanta is once again one of the best teams in the league and it is going to take more than a good effort for the Quakes to have any success. Atlanta already secured their playoff spot and had a match on Wednesday, so maybe the Quakes can catch them off-guard as some of their players look towards those playoff games.