By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer
It was a weekend to forget in MLS for both the Union and Atlanta United, with the former losing 2-0 to NYCFC and the latter losing 2-1 to the New England Revolution. Both teams will be looking to redeem themselves in the second leg of this CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal—with the Union hoping to hold on to their first leg lead, while Atlanta will be hoping to expose weaknesses in the Union’s defense to overcome being down 3-0 on aggregate.
It’s difficult to predict exactly what the Union will look like for this game. Their MLS record suggests that they’ve forgotten how to play soccer, but they always seem to find a way to get their act together for the CCL. They’ll be without Jose Martinez due to yellow card accumulation, but that shouldn’t affect their offensive presence too much. Everyone else is healthy and ready to go.
It also helps that a 3-0 aggregate will be difficult for even Atlanta to overcome. The Union’s defense would really have to fall apart to blow a lead like that, and seeing as the defense has been a pretty immovable object in the CCL, it’s doubtful that they’ll suddenly lose form now.
However, it wouldn’t be all that bad if they did somehow manage to get knocked. Their league play has left so much to be desired, so it could actually be beneficial to the Union to only have to focus on MLS. Making it to the quarterfinals in their first year of competing in the CCL is perfectly respectable, and their performances during this run have proven that the Union are a force to be reckoned with. Obviously, a win would be preferable. On the other hand, getting knocked wouldn’t exactly be the end of the world either.
Predicted Lineup: Blake, Wagner, Elliott, Glesnes, Mbaizo, Flach, Fontana, Bedoya, Monteiro, Santos, Przybylko
- This lineup has been working wonders for Jim Curtin in this competition, so there really isn’t any reason to switch it up too drastically now. Curtin confirmed that Flach would be filling in for Martinez at the defensive midfield spot while he’s suspended, so moving Fontana into Flach’s original winger role would be the only real change.
Score Prediction: While the Union’s offense seemingly don’t want to show up during league games, it’s unlikely that they’ll miss the bus for this matchup. Przybylko has been on fire in this competition, and some of the linkup play for their CCL goals is truly world class. It won’t be a convincing win by any means, but the Union will live to see another CCL game. It’ll only take a 1-0 win, and that’s probably what the final result will end up being.