Atlanta United’s early season habit of yielding subpar results did not last long. The Five Stripes are now in a slightly less acceptable pattern of finding ways to drop points despite putting them on a respectable walk. The latest event of this trend was the 2-1 defeat to Inter Miami last weekend, the third game in a row without a win for Gonzalo Pineda’s side. Unfortunately for Atlanta, things aren’t going to get any easier anytime soon. The Five Stripes moved into Week 9 with a away trip to Stade Saputo and the return of CF Montreal.
Montreal started the season with four losing games as it struggled to balance running to CONCACAF Champions League Quarter-finals before going to Cruz Azul. Since that 1-2 aggregate defeat to the Mexican team, Montreal has racked up three wins and a pair of draws, climbing to sixth in the Eastern Conference with 11 points (equal with Atlanta). Sophomore year coach Wilfried Nancy held onto much of what earned Montreal a successful campaign in 2021, even if they missed the playoff streak by two points. The Canadian team’s 3-4-2-1 formation is led by 23-year-old American striker Djorji Mihajlovic, who leads Montreal in goals and assists (4g and 2a through 8 games). If you ask Montreal, he’s a front-runner for the MLS MVP award and Atlanta will keep him quiet. Romell Quioto (3g, 1a) and Kei Kamara (2g, 1a) were effective to varying degrees up front, while we got a first-hand look at what Ismael Kone (1g, 2a) could do in the reverse, wild 3-3 draw at Benz .
Despite the massive emotional boost that those late goals from Thiago Almada and Brooks Lennon provided in mid-March, Atlanta has been as insanely inconsistent as it has been since. His only league win was when DC (who has since sacked his coach) topped 1-0, while he deserved to lose to Charlotte and was incredibly unlucky as he got just one point from Cincinnati and Miami. Fortunately for Atlanta, the entire East has been different from average all season, so a successful season is still very much possible for the good guys. Philadelphia is only six points behind, while Sensei is only four points behind Atlanta. A streak of victories could as easily move up the Five Stripes in the rankings as easily as a long, winless run could end with Atlanta under the red line. The next three Atlanta Games will go a long way toward determining which of those futures contracts will materialize. Pineda’s team will face three teams below it in the standings in the next three weeks, with Montreal sixth, Chicago tenth and New England thirteenth. Interest in these teams is equal to the path of a team aspiring to become the number one seed, but Atlanta has yet to show they are at that level.
Expect to start XIs
Prediction: CF Montreal 2-2 Atlanta United
Atlanta hasn’t inspired defensively confidence in recent weeks, but his finish will finally return to the quarterback against Montreal. Cisneros would increase his tally before Jake Mulraney scored a late equalizer from the bench to cancel out a double from Quioto.
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