After a blowout loss to the Philadelphia Union on the road, Orlando City will face rival Atlanta United in a midweek match at 6 p.m. tonight in front of the home crowd at Exploria Stadium. Atlanta has endured its fair share of struggles this season, sitting 10th in the Eastern Conference standings with 36 points and a 9-12-9 record. Despite this, Atlanta still has a chance at a playoff berth, only five points behind the seventh place Columbus Crew. Let’s take a deep dive into the numbers behind Atlanta United.
Atlanta has greatly underachieved on offense this season, but that does not mean that it cannot be dangerous on the offensive end. Despite being in the top half of the MLS in goals scored, where it is tied for 12th (45), an argument could easily be made that it should be one of the top scoring teams in MLS. This is because United is first in total scoring attempts (484) and on-target scoring attempts (164). However, just because Atlanta has the most on-target scoring attempts does not mean that it is the biggest offensive threat. United ranks tied for 21st in goals per shot (0.09) and even more condemning is its goals per shot on target, where it ranks tied for 24th (0.27). Orlando City will still need to stand strong on defense because any team that creates that many scoring attempts is extremely dangerous in a one-game scenario, as it takes just one hot night to turn these scoring attempts into a barrage of goals. Atlanta is also extremely good at creating scoring opportunities, ranking first in shot-creating actions (741) and ninth in assists (47).
The Atlanta defense has also slightly underachieved this year, which can partially be contributed to inconsistencies at goalkeeping, starting four different goalkeepers throughout various points in the season. The Five Stripes have allowed the seventh-most goals (50) on the 23rd-most shots on target against (118) in MLS. United ranks sixth in successful pressure percentage (30.5%), is tied for eighth in blocks (420), and 10th in tackles (490). Atlanta has gone through its own struggles at certain points on defense though, as it is 20th in clearances (498), tied for 21st in interceptions (407), and 27th in total pressures applied (3,643) despite winning a majority of those situations when encountered.
Players to Watch
Atlanta United played well in the club’s last match, a 4-2 win over Toronto FC, despite the absence of forward Josef Martinez. Atlanta’s leading scorer was suspended by the club on Sept. 7 for multiple cases of bad behavior according to Head Coach Gonzalo Pineda. After rejoining the club on Monday, it is unknown if Martinez will play against the Lions in tonight’s match. If absent, Atlanta’s offense will rely upon forward Ronaldo Cisneros, who is second on the club in goals (7), fourth in total shots (46), third in shots on target (18), and sixth in accurate shooting percentage (39.1%) among United players with at least 10 matches played. Forward Luiz Araújo has also played a key role in Atlanta’s attack, leading the club in total shots (87), while contributing four goals. The main problem for Atlanta regarding Araújo is that he is wildly inaccurate, sitting 10th in goals per shot on target (0.13) among his Atlanta teammates with at least 10 games played. Midfielder Thiago Almada has helped set up scoring chances for attacking United players, leading the team in assists (11) and sitting second in crosses (24).
Defender Alan Franco has played well for the Atlanta defense this year. Franco is first on Atlanta in tackles (50), interceptions (59), blocks (60), and clearances (41), which makes him a threat to Lions everywhere on the pitch. Defender Andrew Gutman has also played well-rounded defense for United. Among Atlanta players, Gutman is second in tackles (47), third in interceptions (27) and blocks (34), and fourth in clearances (41). Atlanta has struggled to find an answer at goalkeeper with Rocco Ríos Novo getting the majority of starts (15), however, Raúl Gudiño has started the last two matches for United. In those two matches, Gudiño allowed four goals on five shots on target faced for a save percentage of 20%. It’s not a great start for Gudiño, but with such a small sample size it is very early to tell just how good of a keeper he can be for Atlanta.
That’s what I found on Atlanta United. Let me know your thoughts on this upcoming rivalry match in the comments and, as always, go Orlando!