Atlanta United and New York City FC were two of the most exciting teams coming into the 2017 MLS season. While both have provided exciting games for their fans, Atlanta has found themselves outside of a playoff position early into their first MLS season.
Atlanta hopes to improve throughout the season and certainly have the players and management to do so. They will have to start now with a win vs an NYCFC who beat them just three weeks ago.
Atlanta United: The Atlanta side has missed their star striker, Josef Martinez since he went down with an injury during international duty at the end of March. Two months later we are yet to see the Venezuelan striker in MLS play. He is slowly but surely recovering and may even have a slight chance of returning on Sunday.
Josef Martinez scored five goals in his first three MLS games and the Atlanta supporters would love to see him back to full strength helping the team in the attacking third once again.
Unfortunately for Atlanta, Josef is not the only player who is injured. Jacob Peterson is likely to continue to miss time with a lower leg injury. Both players are recovering well and Atlanta will hope to soon see an empty injury list.
New York City FC: The NYCFC injury list continues to build up as a few new names are on the list vs Atlanta.
Khiry Shelton will continue to miss time with a hamstring injury. The winger has not played since the 2-0 win in Philadelphia in the middle of April. Ronald Matarrita is listed as questionable with a high ankle sprain but is not likely to return to the pitch on Sunday. Similar to Khiry Shelton, Matarrita has not played in a match since the win in Philadelphia.
Matarrita is not the only fullback on the injury list this week as Ethan White who recently picked up an adductor is listed as questionable. White, who has found himself in the starting XI frequently this season is having his best MLS season. Ethan White picked up his first career MLS assist vs Atlanta earlier in the month and picked up another in his most recent game against Orlando City SC. Ethan White will be a big miss for New York City FC.
Andrea Pirlo is also listed as questionable with a knee injury. The Italian DP has not seen as much first team action as he probably expected to come into the season. Often being substituted off the pitch in many games early in the season, he has since lost his place in the starting XI as Yangel Herrera and Thomas McNamara have replaced him in NYCFC's three man midfield. Unfortunately for NYCFC, Yangel Herrera will also miss the match on Sunday as he has captained his Venezuela side to the top of the group at the u20 World Cup in South Korea.
Atlanta United currently lead the league in scoring off the back of Miguel Almiron's most impressive MLS appearance where he grabbed three of Atlanta's four goals against Houston. However, the 24 goals scored have only seen Atlanta win four of their eleven games. The Atlanta side sit four points above last place in the Eastern Conference, but also only five points behind NYCFC who currently sit third in the conference.
The two sides have met once before and New York City FC got the better as David Villa shined. With the absence of Josef Martinez, Atlanta will need more goals from star players like Almiron. However, despite injuries NYCFC are currently facing, the exciting attack from the blue side of New York will likely continue to impress. David Villa has the best supporting cast he has had since entering MLS, with the addition of 2015 MLS Cup winner Rodney Wallace and Argentine DP Maxi Moralez the NYCFC attack is looking better than ever.
What To Watch For
Expect NYCFC to control the game as much as the possibly could. After taking the lead for the second time vs Atlanta in New York, the side never looked back. Continuing to dominate play and adding another goal, NYCFC looked impeccable. Patrick Vieira wants his side to play out of the back and they do so with great success. Expect Almiron to lead his Atlanta side on multiple counter attacks as that is when he is at his best.
David Villa currently sits on 49 MLS goals since his arrival in the league in the 2015 MLS season. Since his arrival, he leads the league in goals despite battling against top goal scorers like Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sebastian Giovinco. One more goal will mark the half-century mark just 13 games into his third MLS season.
NYCFC will need to find a third man for the midfield. While Maxi Moralez and Alex Ring have been mainstays in the starting XI, the absence of Andrea Pirlo will see them searching for a third midfielder ready to play in a Patrick Vieira system. Thomas McNamara, Mikey Lopez or Miguel Camargo are likely to replace to be in the starting lineup.
Following the match, NYCFC will go home and welcome the New England Revolution for a midweek match on Wednesday. Atlanta will have to travel to Vancouver to face off against the Whitecaps.
Both sides will hope to display their exciting attacks in Atlanta on Sunday and pick up three points.