Orlando City didn’t get the result it wanted over the weekend, but the unbeaten streak had to come to an end sooner or later. Now, the team will refocus and move on to yet another match-up with Atlanta United.
That means I spoke with David McFarland of SBNation’s Dirty South Soccer. As usual, he was kind enough to give us some excellent information about the Five Stripes.
Atlanta is not out of the playoff picture yet, only sitting two points out of the final playoff spot. What does the team need to improve on to punch its postseason ticket?
David McFarland: D.C. United’s visit to Georgia was a must-win for Atlanta if it wanted to make the playoffs, and, well, we all know how that one turned out. Two of Atlanta’s three final games are against teams in the top four of the East (Orlando and Columbus) while the other is with FC Cincinnati. Theoretically, the most amount of points we could hope for is 5 (one win and two draws) but even that is unlikely to be enough for a postseason spot. And that’s fine with me. Making the playoffs is not going to fix any of the problems around the club and no one is naïve enough to think the Five Stripes could go on a playoff run. The roster would still need an overhaul and a quality coach is still required if Atlanta wants to go anywhere in 2021, no matter what, and the sooner the front office starts making moves, both in and out, the better.
Atlanta and Orlando both suffered tough last-minute losses over the weekend, which is never fun. Did you take any positive things away from the defeat?
DM: To be honest, no. It was more or less the same painful story repeated once again. Unable to create anything in the final third, very avoidable defensive mistakes were Atlanta’s downfall. For the fourth time in Atlanta’s last five games, the Five Stripes totaled an expected goals of less than 0.5 (yikes). That was with both Designated Players — Marcelino Moreno and Ezequiel Barco — starting, but neither was able to do much on their own and I doubt that will change Wednesday. If anything, that defeat pushed this season a little closer to the end, which will be a welcome sight for most Atlanta fans. 2020, man...
Club Tijuana seem to be interested in signing Fernando Meza, who was a big defensive signing for The Five Stripes ahead of this season. What are your thoughts on those rumors?
DM: The Argentine was meant to be a Leandro Gonzalez Pirez replacement but hasn’t clicked since his winter move from Necaxa. Injuries have kept him out of the XI more often than not, though whether he’s even a first-choice center back is debatable. It’s not as though he makes mistake after mistake, but he simply doesn’t seem to do much at all — very much unlike LGP for better or worse. At 30 years of age, it makes sense to cash in while we still can and start over this off-season.
Are there any injuries or suspensions that will keep players unavailable for this one? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
DM: Ezequiel Barco has finally returned from wherever he mysteriously spent the past couple of months and should start versus Orlando. Moreno is another new face since we last met. He’s unsurprisingly slotted right into the starting lineup, a clear improvement over Emerson Hyndman. As for the game, I see Orlando easing to a 2-0 victory and putting us out of our misery.
Thanks again to David for the insight into Atlanta United.