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Massive Predictions: Atlanta United at Columbus Crew SC

Can Crew SC get one over on the ATL this weekend?

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Atlanta United FC Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

For the second time in three weeks, Columbus Crew SC and Atlanta United meet on the pitch.

Two weeks ago, the Five Stripes sent Crew SC home from Bobby Dodd Stadium with tails between its legs following a 3-1 victory by the home side. The Black & Gold players and coaching staff thought they played better than the final scoreline reflected and on Saturday will have a chance to prove that.

This time, the match is at MAPFRE Stadium where Columbus is 6-2-1 on the season. United has struggled on the road, as has any team not named the LA Galaxy or New York City FC, with two wins away from home. Those two came in week two against Minnesota United and versus struggling Real Salt Lake side.

As was the case in the first meeting, the focus for the Black & Gold will be to withstand the Atlanta press without turning the ball over in bad spots and avoid getting hit on the counter attacks. These were both issues two weeks ago that led directly to all three United goals.

It’s another big match for Crew SC. After last week’s 4-1 over the Montreal Impact, Columbus could get on a bit of a roll with another victory in this game before going on the road Tuesday for a July 4 match with MLS’s other expansion side.

Can the team get it done? Let’s see what our staff thinks heading into this contest.

Ralph Schudel

Atlanta shot out of the gates to prominence at the start of the 2017. However, United appeared mortal away from Bobby Dodd Stadium. Gregg Berhalter remained mum on what squad Columbus would see, but we learned Wednesday night that Atlanta rested most of its stars in the U.S. Open Cup match against Miami FC.

Generally there is a good crowd on hand for Crew SC during the fourth of July weekend and I fully expect everyone to be loud and vocal for the Black & Gold. The team has shown resiliency when they fall behind, but can the group show it against a team that is as strong as United?
Columbus Crew SC 3 Atlanta United 1

Josh Enke

Atlanta United FC fell Wednesday night to Miami FC in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16. The starting 11 Tata Martino fielded indicates focus was on this upcoming match with Columbus Crew SC, though the loss was arguably the most upsetting result in The Five Stripes' short history.

Atlanta's key offensive pieces are rested for Saturday. This one should be fun to watch, with both sides' offenses quite capable of keeping an eager crowd entertained.

As always, I'll be keeping a close eye on the Black & Gold defense. If and how the backline manages to absorb and slow the United counter attack will be a determining factor for the outcome of this match.

I'm calling for a rare result for 2017 Crew SC: the elusive draw.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Atlanta United FC 2

Kris Landis

After a much improved performance against the Impact, I'd love to be back on the Black & Gold bandwagon, but I just can't trust this team yet. It has been so inconsistent, and Atlanta bossed them in their first meeting. I think the press of United will continue to give Crew SC fits, and I'm not sure how Columbus will cope with it on Saturday.

Having questions about who will be starting at the back thanks to the Ghanaian contingent missing some time for national duty doesn't help. Gregg Berhalter says "some combination" of them will be available, but who knows what that truly means? All in all I'm expecting goals for both sides and not much great defending.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Atlanta United 2

Patrick Murphy

If you’ve managed to go back and watch the first meeting between Crew SC and Atlanta, it’s hard not to notice that the Black & Gold had long stretches of being the better team. Right before United scored, Columbus were controlling the match, but turnovers are what the Five Stripes feast on.

Crew SC now have experience dealing with Atlanta and know the speed at which these players can hurt a team. Will that make a difference in this one? I think it will certainly help.

Heading into this three-game stretch before the Gold Cup break, I said Columbus needed to come away with seven points. I think this is another opportunity, in front of what will be a big crowd, to keep momentum going against a team that hasn’t been very good on the road.

There’s also the added motivation of getting revenge for the 3-1 loss two weeks ago and I think that’s exactly what Crew SC does.
Columbus Crew SC 3 Atlanta United 1

Josh Mlot

It was clear with the lineup Atlanta put out midweek that it is not concerned with the U.S. Open Cup, and is focusing on the MLS season. That seems appropriate for an expansion team with a real shot at playoff soccer in its first season of existence. This means ATLU will have virtually a full starting 11 at its disposal come this weekend. That's concerning.

Still, I liked the focus that Columbus played with for most of the 90 minutes against Montreal last week. It's also at MAPFRE, and Atlanta has shown cracks on the road. I still tend to take a wait-and-see attitude, though, and I want to see Crew SC stringing some results together before I throw full faith behind them in my predictions.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Atlanta United 2

Collin Johnson

In the two weeks since Crew SC lost 3-1 at Atlanta, the Five Stripes lost at D.C. United (tied for last in the Eastern conference), beat Colorado by one and lost to Miami FC in the U.S. Open Cup. In those same two weeks Columbus has only played one match, a 4-1 win over Montreal.

The Black & Gold have an excellent opportunity to take advantage of an Eastern Conference foe at home on little rest and to show that they have taken lessons on beating the high press that lead to at least two of Atlanta's three goals. Crew SC's lone goal against Atlanta was a perfect example of the Berhalter system working as it should, and if Columbus can duplicate the successes from that goal (smart, simple passes before pressure arrives) then maybe the Columbus can climb a little higher above the playoff red line.
Columbus Crew 2 Atlanta United 1

Nathaniel Marhefka

Let's see how this Columbus team responds to its loss in the first of the two-leg series this year. That one was all always Atlanta United's match. The press was crippling and Crew SC seemed to shoot themselves in the foot repeatedly. Will the team respond by a change of approach this week? -- I'm not so sure.

As Kris Landis commented in this week's matchday episode, Berhalter remarked that he wants a solid return to classic Crew SC, and a stricter adherence to the game the group likes to play. While that is all in good in a vacuum, I'm not so sure that it is the proper approach to this match. The club is yet to exhibit that it is able to manage such a direct and heavy pressing application.

IF the team continues to try and play out of the back against this opponent with no real outlet, I worry that turnovers deep in the defensive end will continue to be problematic and potentially lead to goals out of transition for United. However I do expect the offense from Columbus to be improved as the players are better rested this match and will be playing at home. The first goal will be the ever important one as it has a good chance to dictate the tempo and result of the match.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Atlanta United FC 2

Patrick Guldan

For the notable late game failings, Columbus Crew SC are actually a good team at home. It has outlasted potent goal scoring teams like the Portland Timbers and Toronto FC. The team has notched wins against playoff teams like the Chicago Fire and Orlando City.

The Black & Gold know how to play on the turf at MAPFRE. And if there’s a silver lining to bombing out of the Open Cup, the group also had a full week to rest while Atlanta had to face Miami FC midweek. It was admittedly a changed side, but the visitors will be jetting around the eastern U.S., Crew SC’s defense can prepare for the aggressive movement of ATL’s high payed attackers and Federico Higuain and the rest of the attack have more time to find the seams in a defense that gave up chances two weeks ago.

There will be fireworks on the field and Crew SC will get a needed three points at home.
Columbus Crew SC 3 Atlanta United 2

A lot of draws predicted this week, which would be a change for the Black & Gold. How do you see this game playing out?