Back to Ohio, but this time with Almada and momentum in tow
Atlanta United’s 2023 season all comes down to this. With the Five Stripes and Columbus Crew trading blows in the opening games, Game 3 of this Round 1 clash is left as the one to decide it all.
Despite the return to Columbus’ home field, this time around promises to be very different than Game 1 one way or another. For starters, Thiago Almada won’t be suspended. We all saw the vast difference between Game 1 and 2 due to his presence (or lack of), and Atlanta now has a bit of momentum and a confidence boost under its belt thanks to the 4-2 win over the Crew Tuesday night. Proving that it can beat Columbus at all was no easy step for Gonzalo Pineda’s side, but now that that hurdle has been emphatically left in the dust, the vibes have to be pretty high going into Game 3. And if Atlanta can do that once to the Crew, what’s stopping it from doing it again?
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
It won’t quite be as easy as that, however. Atlanta won’t be able to dominate on the road like it did at home and Columbus will have the same must-win mindset the Five Stripes had Tuesday. This time they’ll be hunting for a goal with intensity on full blast and the fans behind their back, so the key for Atlanta will be erase silly mistakes from the backline (which will be under quite a bit more pressure than it was in Game 2) and made Columbus earn his goals. An early goal for the Five Stripes would be perfect to take the wind out of the Crew’s sails, but that might be a bit much to ask for. Regardless, it’s going to take a near-perfect performance from the entire XI if Atlanta is going to pull off back-to-back wins over the Crew and book a spot in the Conference Semifinals.
Predicted Starting XIs
Columbus’ Predicted XI (3-4-3)
Atlanta’s Predicted XI (4-2-3-1)
Prediction: Columbus Crew 2-3 Atlanta United
We’ll see another goalfest come Sunday and once again Atlanta will come out on top, if only barely. A brace from Giorgos Giakoumakis and a Xande Silva redemption game-winner will power the Five Stripes onto the next round.