Nashville SC take on Atlanta United once again. For a closer look at the Five Stripes, we spoke with Doug Roberson, who covers the team for the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Ben Wright: It doesn’t seem like life is going as well as hoped for Gabriel Heinze and Atlanta United. Is that fair? What’s gone wrong so far this season?
Doug Roberson: That’s fair.
Many things are under construction: the man-marking system on defense, the search for a goal-scorer and the adjusting to tactics and expectation of a new coach. Plus, the team has been decimated by injuries or call-ups to starters, which has delayed all of the processes.
The team’s biggest need is for someone to become an impactful scorer. Josef Martinez has scored two goals in seven appearances. Ezequiel Barco continues to disappoint. Marcelino Moreno has three. But no one is a consistent threat.
BW: Has it been more an issue of poor management from Heinze, poor performances from players, back luck or something else?
DR: One man’s poor management is another’s process, I suppose.
The team has had three awful performances: at New England, at NYCFC and at Chicago. It has had chances to win several other games, including giving up two-goal leads in back-to-back games against Nashville and Philadelphia. A theme seems to be that Atlanta United’s individual mistakes are being punished while it isn’t forcing opponents into any mistakes.
BW: Atlanta have a massive injury report, plus four key players on international duty. What does their squad look like for the trip to Nashville tomorrow?
DR: Well, out will be Brad Guzan, Miles Robinson, George Bello, Ezequiel Barco, Emerson Hyndman and Franco Ibarra. I’ll be very surprised if Josef Martinez, Alan Franco and Jurgen Damm play. I’ll be mildly surprised if Alan Franco plays.
BW: They just brought in Amar Sejdic from Montreal. What kind of impact will he have, and how quickly do you expect him to get involved?
DR: I doubt he will start because Wednesday was his first training session. I think he will become a starter in place of either Hyndman or Ibarra. As far his impact, I’m not sure.
BW: What will Atlanta have to do to get a result in Nashville? Conversely, how can Nashville beat this Atlanta team?
DR: I think a low-scoring draw will be Atlanta United’s best hope. It just needs to grind out results and not give-up goals on set-pieces. If Nashville keeps doing what has worked so far, I think three points is a safe bet.
BW: If you’re comfortable, could you share a lineup/score prediction?
A: Nashville, 2-0.
Kann; Lennon, Walkes, De John, Ambrose; Adams, Wolff, Lopez; Chol, Moreno, Torres
Thanks to Doug for his time and expertise. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @DougRobersonAJC for more on Atlanta United.