Having lost out against NYCFC during the week, Atlanta will hope for better against New York Red Bulls on Sunday (3.30pm ET), as they look for a first win in five matches.
Will they get the job done? Or can the visitors add to the problems at Mercedes-Benz Stadium? Read on for this preview’s take on the answers to those questions, along with betting picks and MLS game predictions.
Atlanta come into this fixture without a win in four MLS matches. They’ve often dominated games, but a lack of cutting edge in the final third has been an issue, and when they have turned it on offensively, the Five Stripes have struggled to keep teams at bay. Their recent 2-2 draw against Philadelphia is the perfect example. New York have done a better job of winning in recent weeks, emerging victorious from two of their last three, but they’ve struggled for consistently, as a record littered with losses shows. Both teams will be looking for improvements when they meet on Sunday afternoon.
Weak attack costing hosts
For much of the campaign, Atlanta’s relative quietness in the final third hasn’t been too much of a problem. They’ve been reasonably solid at the back and have often done a good job of frustrating teams, but sooner or later, a lack of offensive power will catch up with you, as Gabriel Heinze’s men are now finding out.
It is not as if Atlanta haven’t scored a few goals, scoring at least once in seven of their last eight, but they’re just not playing like a side that is going to seriously hurt teams by putting the ball in the net multiple times. They have scored more than once in three out of nine, while they have the second worst expected goals for number in the Eastern Conference. This tells us that they are simply not creating as much as the teams that they’re competing against for one of the top spots.
Red Bulls in and out of form
It’s been something of an up and down campaign for New York Red Bulls, who at times have looked like the strong side that we all know they can be, but at other times, they’ve found it tough to get going. After back-to-back home wins against Orlando and Nashville, neither of which are easy to beat, Gerhard Struber would’ve been looking for his side to build some real momentum, but it was once again a case of a step in the right direction followed by one in the wrong direction when they were bettered by New England Revolution last time out.
New York’s form can be split into two categories, home form and away form. Their home form is good, but their away form is appalling. It is a lack of performances on the road that has prevented Gerhard Struber’s men from kicking on this campaign. On the road, NYRB have lost four out of four. They have scored five goals, which isn’t terrible, but they’ve conceded ten, which frankly, is awful. Only two teams in the Eastern Conference have conceded more travelling goals than the Red Bulls, who also have a worrying average expected goal difference of -0.95 away from the comforts of Red Bull Arena.
For all Atlanta aren’t exactly flying right now, and while recent results don’t exactly catch the eye for the right reasons, they remain a strong side at home, a side that is very tough to beat in its own backyard. The Five Stripes have won two and drawn two at home this season. They have a positive goal difference of +3 on their own patch, though creating more than their opposition has proven to be tricky at times, as an average expected goal difference of -0.34 suggests. xG isn’t everything, even if it a good performance indicator, and the fact remains that Atlanta, one way or another, have made a habit of making it tough for visiting teams at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, so they ought to fancy their chances against a Red Bulls team that hasn’t travelled well this season.
Where’s the bet?
Betting on a team that is without a win in four won’t be for everyone, especially when the squad in question has sometimes struggled to really press home their advantage, but this must be seen as a big opportunity for the hosts. Atlanta’s performances at home haven’t been bad at all, and it is at home where they have done their best offensive work, scoring twice against both Nashville and Philadelphia recently. OK, they failed to keep those teams at bay, but everything we’ve seen so far from the Red Bulls away tells us that they’re not as advanced offensively as that pair.
For all their expected goals numbers aren’t superb at home, Atlanta’s figures are far better than New York Red Bulls’ on the road. 0.61 better on average in fact. Such a number is hard to ignore, as is the fact that while Atlanta average 2.00 points per home game, NYRB average 0.00 points per away fixture.
Home is certainly where the heart is for Gabriel Heinze’s men, and this is their chance to get back on track by beating a Red Bulls side that simply hasn’t been at the races when playing on the road this season. Ezequiel Barco looks interesting at around 7/1 for first goalscorer but those looking to get involved in the action are advised to side with a home win at odds of +115. So, to summarize the conclusion of the predictions for this preview:
- Take Atlanta United to win @ top odds of +116 on the moneyline with Bookmaker.