Atlanta and Columbus have met three times in the regular season since United joined the league last year and the Five Stripes have won every meeting. Last season, Atlanta won the inaugural meeting at Bobby Dodd Stadium 3-1 before defeating Crew SC 2-0 at MAPFRE Stadium less than a month later. In mid-June, United came to Columbus and earned another 2-0 victory.
It has been a struggle for the Black & Gold against last year’s Eastern Conference expansion side (though it should be noted, Crew SC won when it mattered in last season’s playoffs).
Sunday’s matchup won’t get any easier as United sits atop the league standings with 48 points. Forward Josef Martinez is set to break the league’s single-season goal scoring record with his 26 goals in 24 games. Midfielder Miguel Almiron is tied for third in MLS with 11 assists, helping to drive the league’s best offense.
Will history repeat itself and see Columbus head home with another loss to the Five Stripes? Let’s see what our staff thinks.
Atlanta and Columbus lead the league in expected points this season, but unlike Columbus, Atlanta has converted their expected points into actual points. Given the Crew’s struggles to score on the road (six goals in 11 games) and Atlanta’s potent attack at home (33 goals in 13 games) I just don’t see the Crew getting a result in Atlanta. Expect Josef Martinez to grab at least one goal to tie the MLS single-season scoring record, and don’t be surprised if he breaks the record on Sunday.
Atlanta United 2 Columbus Crew 0
Atlanta has had two weeks to prepare for this one but Crew SC had a match against the Houston Dynamo to warm up. It’s possible Atlanta plays a similar style to what we saw against the Crew last weekend albeit with far greater execution. Columbus won by a mere goal and Pedro Santos was unfortunate to hit the post, but the match Sunday will have to be far more clinical and clean if they want to manage a point or three in Atlanta.
If the Black & Gold can improve on the faults in the last match, I can see this game edging a low contest in their favor. However I see too many issues in the final third that won’t slip by Atlanta so I am going to call this one for United.
Atlanta United 2 Columbus Crew SC 0
It could be a tough weekend for the Crew as the team takes on arguably MLS’s best team on the road in Atlanta. Both teams are in good form, with the hosts unbeaten in five and the visitors enjoying a three-match winning streak, but Crew SC’s last performance, against the Houston Dynamo, wasn’t really exciting.
Atlanta has not played in the last two weeks and it should bring all the energy to the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium against the Black & Gold. For Columbus, the perfect scenario would be having a performance as good as the one against the New York Red Bulls, but I’m not overly confident that will be case, not by the team’s fault, but because of Atlanta’s quality.
Atlanta United 3 Columbus Crew SC 1
I’m not sure why you should be optimistic if you’re a Crew SC fan in this game. The Black & Gold has just three road wins this year and the only convincing performance away from MAPFRE Stadium came on the opening weekend of the year. Columbus can’t score goals, especially away from home. While the defense was playing well early, it hasn’t been the same level in the last handful of matches. Meanwhile Atlanta is very good — home or away — and scores a lot of goals.
I think United is one of the worst matchups in the league for Crew SC with the way they can possess but also hit on the counter attack. It will be interesting to see how the Black & Gold approach this game tactically, as Gregg Berhalter told me this week they’re going to try something different. We’ll see if that works better.
Atlanta United 2 Columbus Crew SC 1
The last time Crew SC traveled to Atlanta, Zack Steffen announced himself to a national audience and we saw one of the most exciting 0-0 matches in recent memory. You can bet that Atlanta will be hungry for revenge on their home field. The Black & Gold have never beaten the Five Stripes in a regular season match, and that streak will continue in front of a rowdy crowd. That said, with Justin Meram back in the team and Pedro Santos coming off his best match of the season, the Crew look to be finding their form at the perfect time.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Atlanta United 2
Columbus faces another tough test during the team’s late summer travels. Atlanta United is a tough matchup wherever you play them, but they are well adapted to their home field and play well in front of their home crowd. A visiting team can get a result, but it’s tough because Atlanta is good no matter where they play. Their lightning quick attack works exceptionally well on the turf surface. Their defense is very solid and adept at starting transition attacks. They also are good at adapting to opponents.
Crew SC have struggled mightily in Georgia, except for the notable playoff tie last year. They’ll have to try and replicate that performance through tight defense and judicious attacking. The defense remains one of the best in MLS, especially with an in form Zack Steffen in goal, but the offense has struggled. The return of Justin Meram may change that, but he’s not likely ready to start quite yet. United won’t have to face the full force of the Crew SC attack.
Atlanta United 2 Columbus Crew SC 0
How do you see it playing out in a rare Sunday Crew SC game? Let us know in the comment section below.