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What to Watch For In The Portland Game

Updated: Jul 28

Sean Meagher/The Oregonian

After a string of exciting games leaving us top of the table, we will be hoping to continue the three-game unbeaten streak when hosting Portland Timbers. And this game will be a particularly important test as Atlanta United is yet to play a team willing to fully park the bus, an awful style of defensive soccer that has given us fits in the past years. But this year the Five Stripes have developed a new attacking style of soccer with an emphasis on movement off the ball and have been able to play through Thiago Almada very successfully and hopefully will be able to get the ball to our marquee signing, Gorgios Giakoumakis.

Thiago Almada

The most obvious thing to watch for is how we play through Thiago Almada. The 21-year-old World Cup winner already has 2 goals and 2 assists in an incredible start to the MLS season. Almada typically lines up in a 10 role to move the ball from the midfield and defense into our attackers but has been drifting out wide to draw defenders and get into space in the past few games this season. This has been causing real trouble for our opponents whose defenders don't know what to do against our very fluid attack.

Attacking Out Wide

This relates to Thiago Almada because he is a very important piece of the build-up that allows our wingers and fullbacks to attack on the wings. Portland will most likely decide to play the 3-5-2 they have been partial to in their past few games which will emphasize the wings for our attack. The goal of their lineup is to prevent the ball from coming into the middle. All six of their midfielders and defenders will be tasked with staying compact in the middle and cutting off passing lanes into the area around the top of the 18-yard box.

This means that we will have to bring Almada out wider to help our wingers and fullbacks beat their wide player on either side.

From there our wide players will be tasked with getting the ball back into the middle for our crashing midfielders and attackers. This is where I have the least faith in our attack, we have been able to create good amounts of crosses and attacks in the past but we have had trouble getting our crosses to connect with attackers who can finish it. But hopefully, Gigi will be able to put his large 6-foot-1 frame to use.

Midfield Changes

Gonzalo Pineda will be forced to figure out how to rotate his midfield because Rossetto who has started all three previous games is out with an injury and Sosa is back from suspension for the first time this game. And to make it as complicated as possible Amar Sejdic has played very well in the minutes he has earned recently. So it will be interesting to see how Atlanta lines up in the middle of the park, which will also be important as to be successful against the low block it is important to have a strong midfield to keep circulating the ball through the attack whenever the opposing team tries to relieve some of the pressure.

Handling the Counter

Creator: Karl L. Moore | Credit: Karl L. Moore Copyright: © Karl L. Moore 2019

Lastly, looking at our defense we will need to control Portland's two attacking players, Moreno, and either Boli or Fogaca, who will be looking to attack quickly when they get the ball. This will emphasize Miles Robinson and Juanjo Purata handling attacks at speed, which I have faith in. Both center backs are fast and can track back well so I feel confident we will be able to handle their fast-paced attackers.

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