The Houston Dynamo will finish out their 3rd game in just 8 days with a trip to Atlanta United FC. Earlier this week they fell 0-2 to the Philadelphia Union on the road which is unfortunately becoming a storyline this season. The Dynamo will hope to not lose their 5th game on the road this season when they take on the southern MLS newcomers.
In our preview of the match we discussed the Dynamo’s need to overcome their road struggles to become successful and Atlanta’s form, but we wanted to know more about our opponents so we spoke with Haris Kruskic at Dirty South Soccer to get an insider’s perspective on the co-newest club to MLS.
Dynamo Theory: As one of the two new clubs to join MLS this season, what were initial expectations for how well Atlanta can perform in the Eastern Conference and are those expectations being met?
Dirty South Soccer: I kept my hopes low before the season began for all the reasons any expansion team should keep their expectations in check (historical lack of success in their first year, players that have never played together, travel, etc.). I thought we'd compete for a playoff spot but ultimately fall short, perhaps finish in 8th or 9th place in the East.
But now that we're ten matches in, I feel pretty good about our playoff hopes. We're in a small slump right now, but if Atlanta plays to their capabilities for most of the season, we should manage to grab the #5 or #6 seed in the East.
DT: Although Atlanta had a good stretch of results early in the season, the team is looking for its first win since April 22nd, nearly a month ago. What does Atlanta need to do differently to see results going their way?
DSS: Shoot when the opportunity presents itself. Too often we've seen Atlanta pass the ball around the box with nothing to show for it at the end. United have the fifth fewest shots in the league this season, now granted they're also tied for third in goals in MLS. I do like to play devil's advocate with that shot though. How many goals could we have if we didn't attempt to walk the ball into the net, like we seemingly tried to do on a few occasions last week against Portland?
This is where the unavailability of Josef Martinez has really hurt Atlanta. He creates chances and is patient enough to rely on his skill in the box to elude defenders or goalkeepers. Atlanta supporters can't wait to have him back.
DT: Who are some players Dynamo fans should keep an eye on in this match?
DSS: Leandro Gonzalez Pirez has the capability of being one of MLS' best defenders by the end of the season. He's a tank, but can also pass downfield to a sprinting winger at a moment's notice. Pirez is also 17th in the entire league in dribbles per match, as a center back. He loves to get up the field which does occasionally come back to haunt Atlanta, but it makes for an entertaining match to say the least.
Also, if we have to talk about one player on Atlanta United, it has to be Miguel Almiron. He has the potential to be one of the most creative midfielders in MLS. He was courted by Arsenal and Chelsea last season while playing for Lanus in Argentina, so the quality is there. Almiron's dribbling and ability to keep the ball from other midfielders is fun to watch, his passing and vision are incredible at times and he's capable of wonderful strikes. With two goals and four assists to his name already, he'll be relied on heavily by Atlanta on Saturday to create opportunities, especially with Josef Martinez out.
For my answers to Haris’s excellent questions, please check them out at Dirty South Soccer!