Roots return from Texas to host the Atlanta United junior varsity squad this Saturday, June 25 at 7:00 p.m. at Laney College. The Roots’ result in San Antonio was pretty good, but their performance was only okay. They will look to right the ship against a bottom-three team in all of USL. The match will be on ESPN+. It’s Soul Night at Laney, and there is a performance by mystic before the game.
Atlanta United 2 are the reserve team for Atlanta United, which sprang forth whole from the ground and straight into MLS in 2017. At the time, the only team in the non-Texas former confederacy was Orlando City, which joined the league in 2015, with Inter Miami and Nashville joining in 2020. Atlanta United are owned by Arthur Blank, who co-founded Home Depot, which made him a billionaire. He bought the Atlanta Falcons in 2002, and the Atlanta United main team shares the sphincter stadium with the Falcons. Blank is a big supporter of the Democratic Party and specifically making voting easier in Georgia, which is pretty good by major-sports-owner standards. Atlanta United won MLS in their second season in 2018, and the US Open Cup in 2019, although have fallen from those lofty heights in the seasons since.
Atlanta United 2 share Fifth Third Bank Stadium with the Kennesaw State University Owls football team. Kennesaw is 25 miles from downtown Atlanta, but I think in Atlanta that qualifies as inner-ring. ATL2 started in USL in 2018, but this will be their last season before jumping to MLS Next Pro. ATL2 have never been competitive in USL, and 2021 was their first time with more than half as many wins as losses. I was going to call them “the Twos,” as a half-hearted joke like Galaxy’s “Los Dos,” but it turns out their home announcers in the highlights call them “the Twos.”
|3/16||Red Bulls II||Home||L||0||1|
ATL2 actually took the lead in this one, although only after a couple of bad, scuffed finishes by Memphis. Kissiedou equalized around 25 minutes on a much tougher opportunity than the one he scuffed in the 11th, Memphis took the lead less than a minute later, and doubled the lead another five minutes after that. Atlanta would cut the lead again, but Atlanta’s defense is absolutely atrocious and 901 grabbed two more in the last 20-ish minutes.
Atlanta got one of their three wins the following week hosting Loudoun United, a team we know is not very good. The lead came on a penalty from a really bone-headed tackle, when Atlanta weren’t even threatening all that much. The second came in the 94th on an excellent breakaway by Raimar who ran half the field and beat the keeper on a long, low shot from just inside the 18-yard-box.
Atlanta’s last match hosted Hartford Athletic, and conceded both goal and an assist to friend of the blog Tom Brewitt, but Atlanta saved a penalty from Corey Hertzog, so a mixed day for the player hater ranking. Speaking of which:
Anyway, there is very little to be learned from the Hartford game, except that Atlanta’s defense is baaaaaaaad.
|3/26||Monterey Bay Union Football Club of Seaside, California||Home||L||2||3|
|3/30||New Mexico United||Away||D||2||2|
|4/02||Tampa Bay Rowdies||Home||D||0||0|
|4/13||January 6 Apologists SC||Home||D||2||2|
|4/30||Colorado Springs Troop Appreciators||Home||L||0||3|
|5/14||AFC Pure Uncut Nevada Chaos||Away||D||1||1|
|5/21||Galaxia de Carson, Two||Home||W||1||0|
|5/28||Central Valley Republic||Home||D||1||1|
|6/4||Monterey Bay Union Football Club of Seaside, California||Away||W||2||0|
|6/15||New Mexico United||Home||L||1||2|
|6/22||Five Shades of Gray, F.C.||Away||D||1||1|
I can’t just keep using the indecisive Larry David gif. I mean, I guess I prefer that to the season going completely off the rails.
Roots took the lead on a neat little corner kick routine, Azocar played short to Dennis, who played back to Azocar who had the jump on his man and brought the ball well into the 18-yard-box, and picked out Nane completely alone at about the penalty spot. San Antonio leveled in first half stoppage time. A cross from SAFC’s attacking right-side goal line found PC across the box, and PC laid a perfect header to the feet of Sam Adeniran who just had to turn and shoot. San Antonio worked Blanchette about to death in the second half, but he came away with six saves and the Roots took a point home from an away fixture against the second-ranked team in the West. Concerningly, Mfeka was stretchered off. He has a history of injuries, and it could be a real problem for the Roots if Mfeka is out for an extended period of time–he has looked one of the livelier attacking players.
Players to Watch
Jackson Conway #36 – I think some, maybe all, ATL2 players must wear the number that they would wear if they got called up. Or this team is full of players who like wearing jerseys in the 30s. Conway is from Leeds, but his first listed club is Georgia United and then Atlanta United. Conway is a 6’3″ striker and has four goals so far this season. He has three brief appearances for Atlanta 1 this year. At 20 he seems like a candidate to make the jump full-time at any moment. This may be coincidence based on injuries, but he has not made a long road trip for the Twos since April 16. Since then he has played a couple road games for the MLS side, but has skipped away games for ATL2 to Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Memphis (further than you’d think). Possibly the team likes to keep him nearby to spot-start in an emergency. Possibly I should not have listed him as a player to watch.
Robbie Mertz #14 – Michigan Man Robbie Mertz is in his fourth year in USL, two in Pittsburgh and two now for ATL2. During one college summer he played for Burlingame Dragons, which is neat. Mertz has three goals and two assists, and leads the team in total minutes. Mertz plays as a central midfielder, but any variance from that is into the attack and to the right side. Mertz is 25 and does not appear to havee a call-up to the big league team, so he seems likely to feature in Oakland if healthy.
Raimar #12 – 19-year-old Brazilian Raimar made his debut in early May, his first start in late May, and in the four matches in June tallied three goals and two assists. His signing was announced for Atlanta 2 itself, not the MLS side, but at his age and rate of production, it might not be long before the paperwork gets sorted for him to play in MLS. Raimar plays on the left side as a wing-back or winger. Raimar hails from Manaus, which you may recall from the 2014 World Cup is the city way out in the Amazon.
Lineup and Score Predictions
I’m back to wishcasting lineups. If you listened to the pod, you know Jon and I are both pretty pessimistic about the season, and I think that will be true until I see something different over the next several weeks. But for this match, the Roots should wallop them. This is the worst team the Roots have faced since Loudoun, and they might be worse than Loudoun. My hope, and I might say my actual prediction, is that the Roots have sent the Twos packing by half-time, and the supporters can spend the second half focused on the Supreme Court instead of the ref. 3-1 Roots.
(Jon told me the things in his post below, but I forgot them. I’m going to stand by Rito not playing, although it’s awesome to see him in training. Maybe we get Diaz/Ward back for a game. I think Nane would take Hernandez’s place in midfield, which is pretty defensive, but less defensive than having Fuenmayor instead of a midfielder. An interesting possibility would be Mariona, coming off a big performance for his national U20 team.)
There’s a few wrinkles tonight; Jose Hernandez has accumulated eight yellow cards and will be forced to miss one match, so I have Mikael Johnsen and Matias Fissore suiting up in the midfield. This also means Tarek Morad is one yellow card away from a suspension as well. Edgardo Rito has been seen training this week, so I’m thinking he returns on the right. You’ll also notice Memo Diaz at left back, I’ve been told not to expect Juan Carlos Azocar after picking up a knock last week and it’ll be either Memo or Akeem Ward getting the start on the left side–I’m penciling in Diaz. It’ll be the first game Azocar has missed all season. My score prediction is a 2-nil Roots’ victory, hopefully with both goals coming in the first half.
Let’s get funky! Are the twos good? No, they are not. They are terrible. The terrible twos, if you will. So while I’m heartened to hear about Rito’s recovery, I would not risk him stepping on a lego with bare feet against this team. Also, it’s about time Azocar got himself a night off while someone else watches the left wing. So I’m going to predict this absurdly attacking focused lineup. Knock on wood and all that, but I think we don’t need to be as worried about defense in this one. The back 3 without true wingbacks is a favorite of some managers out there when they know they can dominate the opposition or need a goal themselves. So let’s have some fun here. These are 3 necessary points, and while defense is important and all that, outscoring the opponent is the name of the game here. 5-2 Roots.