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How Atlanta Faces Columbus Without Almada

Brooks Lennon dribbles in the Atlanta vs Columbus match.
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Decision day is always nervy and weird, mercifully this year was less stressful as Atlanta had already secured a playoff spot but the game still had major implications. First and foremost, Atlanta will be facing Columbus as their opponent for the first round of the playoffs. The schedule can be seen here and Atlanta's home game between two rough away trips is on Tuesday, November 7th at 7:00 p.m. The second main takeaway is that Thiago Almada was juvenile and hotheaded in a way we haven't really seen before and got himself a red card meaning he will miss the first game at Columbus. This was so frustrating as the two fouls weren't necessary, the first yellow was very light, and the game didn't even really matter. At the end of the day, what's done is done and the young 22-year-old's second-ever red card will be a major learning experience. What matters now is how the team adjusts to his gaping absence.

Straight-ish Fortune Swap

Ajani Fortune for Atlanta United
Credit: AJ Reynolds/Atlanta United

Option one is the simpler way of replacing Almada--to the extent that you can. Fortune would come into the midfield alongside Rossetto and Muyumba and the team would just lack a 10 playing behind Giakoumakis. What this means is that Muyumba has more support in the box-to-box midfield role and little around the midfield has to change. The formation also means that Gigi has more responsibilities to drop back some, but he has started to get involved more already so that isn't crazy. Overall, the formation isn't ideal as the first playoff match at Columbus isn't where you would choose to give Fortune his fourth MLS start but it refrains from editing too much in Almada's absence. The formation also could mean that Atlanta can move the ball around laterally more as Fortune would be in the line with Muyumba and Rossetto, rather than on top of them like Almada. This means everyone would have to step up and be more of a creator but that it allows for more lateral movement of the ball in the attack which could be dangerous if Saba and Xande come inside into wider forwards rather than true, Jurgen Damm-esque wingers.

Saba free role

It's Saba time.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Saba free role is the more intriguing of the options to me but requires a lot of jiggering and reliance on a side and playstyle of Saba that we just haven't really seen from the Georgian. To mimic having a creative 10 behind the attacking line, Saba could be given free rein in the attack and charged with being a creator and using his pace to lead attacks while Mosquera fills his typical winger role. This would potentially mean more chances for Atlanta United's attackers to get in behind and be creative in the attack but also means that Muyumba and Rossetto will be saddled with the entire midfield presence, to the extent that Almada was in the midfield before. This substitution would add a lot of pace to the attack, as well, and could be used to create overloads as Saba moves laterally around the attack. This all hinges on Saba's ability to fill a rather large role as the creative outlet, though. If executed, EST would be Eastern Saba time.


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