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Crew SC lineup breakdown vs Atlanta United

Lineups are now official, here’s what to expect tactically

Lineups: Crew SC vs. Atlanta United
Nathaniel Marhefka

Good evening, welcome to Massive Report for this tactical preview as Columbus Crew SC takes on Atlanta United at home. This can be your guide to the match as the Black & Gold look to repeat their victory last week and forge a little revenge to the side that beat them 3-1 back on June 17th.

For the starting lineup this week we have the same personnel as the previous two fixtures, including the last match against Atlanta. But expect a different feel from this match.

Atlanta United roll out a nearly identical lineup to their last meeting against Columbus, bar two changes. Julian Gressel sees to the bench after playing midweek against Miami FC, and the newly-returned-from-injury Josef Martinez makes his second-consecutive league start since his return.

In the right back spot, Anton Walkes, the athletic defender on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, makes his second career start for the team. Primarily a center back, he has shown promise at outside back and has replaced the inconsistent Tyrone Mears for a second match in a row.

What can we expect tactically from both sides?

Expect Atlanta United to bring a dynamic and aggressive press into Mapfre Stadium today. The heavy press unsettled Gregg Berhalter’s team previously, so I do not see Tata Martino changing much in that way.

By disrupting build-up play, Atlanta scored two goals in transition as they forced turnovers deep in the Columbus side of the field. But don’t expect a sudden direct style of play from Crew SC, instead the team will likely aim to have a refined approach to build out of the back as a unit.

A big key will be to limiting individual errors and generally staying connected as a unit so that players on the ball have constant support. Once in the attacking end, Crew SC will look to send in as many crosses as possible to front man Ola Kamara.

The catalyst for the crosses will be the two wing backs on either side, Harrison Afful and Jukka Raitala. It will be up to Federico Higuain, however, to help facilitate movements across the width of the pitch in the attacking third.


Both teams will operate in a 4-2-3-1 formations that look to operate down the flanks and stretch the opposition.

Starting XI — Columbus Crew SC vs. Atlanta United, July 1 2017, Mapfre Stadium
Nathaniel Marhefka

It will be a battle for possession as we have two of the most passing-oriented teams in the league facing off. If you’re a neutral supporter, you’re in luck, because this match has the chance to feel more like a “European match” than just about any other in the league.

The primary attacking approach for Atlanta will look to exploit the space behind Ethan Finlay and Harrison Afful and creating overloads on that side. Columbus will be a bit different as the center will be the key but will outlet wide for crosses consistently.

The deepest center midfielders for the either side, usually Wil Trapp and Jeff Larentowicz will like to plug the space between the center backs during the attack. This will be done as a way to release the wing backs higher up the pitch to create overloads and gain positional advantage on the wings.

Late in the match, don’t be surprised if Columbus Crew SC switches to a 3-man back line.

Gregg Berhalter named four defenders on the bench and it is very possible that we see this switch later on either to preserve a lead of enable the attacking players more freedom.

Both Jonathan Mensah and Harrison Afful played midweek so I would expect to see Hector Jimenez at some point at right wing back.

Nico Naess could also be a substitute option for Crew SC in the center of midfield as there are no central midfielders listed on the substitutes bench with Mohammed Abu featuring in the USMNT - Ghana friendly today.

Focal areas of the match:

  1. Atlanta press & how does Crew SC respond in build-up play.
  2. Columbus’ right flank — expect a “tug-of-war” between Afful and Finlay for Crew SC & Asad and Garza for Atlanta United.
  3. Fight for the ball; Possession is key.

And lastly: Congrats to Ethan Finlay who is making his 100th career start today.

Here’s a guide to how you can watch today’s match