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Crossing the Touchline: Crew SC at Atlanta United

What should the Black & Gold expect from the league leaders?

MLS: Toronto FC at Atlanta United FC Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Crew SC have a tough challenge on Sunday. After three consecutive wins, the Black & Gold head to Atlanta United, who are currently tied for the top spot in Major League Soccer. The Five Stripes sit on 48 points, now even with the New York Red Bulls to sit atop the Eastern Conference and league standings.

We wanted to get an inside perspective of what’s going on with United, so we turned to our friend Haris Kruskic, an editor of SB Nation’s Dirty South Soccer. Here’s what Haris told us.

Questions for Dirty South Soccer

Massive Report: Given Atlanta’s form and position in the standings this year, what are the current expectations from the fan base when we reach the postseason?

Dirty South Soccer: It’s tough to gauge that. There are fans who are optimistic and believe this is Atlanta’s year and then there are fans who are wary of getting too excited and try to subdue overly optimistic thoughts any chance they get.

Personally, I think those pessimists are just afraid of getting their hopes up (as they should be with any Atlanta team). However, if one looks at United’s entire body of work this season, the case can be made that they’re the most consistently overbearing team in MLS. The honeymoon phase of this expansion team is over at this point. Atlanta is a juggernaut when they’re at their best and they should make a deep postseason run because they have the tools needed to do it. Now it’s just about executing.

MR: t’s been 22 years of MLS play and no one has been on the scoring tear of Josef Martinez. What makes the forward so good? Also, how long do you think he’ll remain with United?

DSS: Josef Martinez is the best striker in MLS and it’s not even close. There are a couple of different traits that make him so good. First and foremost, his sheer tenacity and expectation to score every opportunity he gets is borderline absurd. There are strikers that are upset when they don’t score in a match, and then there’s Martinez who’s upset when he doesn’t score a hat trick in every match. He sets an incredibly high standard for himself, but he believes he can do it night in and night out. That’s just his mentality.

I would also point out that his movement off the ball is absolutely crucial to his success. There’s something to be said about players who always seem to find themselves in the right position. Martinez has a great joint instinct with his wingers and fullbacks, so they’re able to cross the ball into the box where and when he wants it regularly.

As for how long do I think he stays, I expect him to remain in Atlanta for 2019 before being sold for a nice chunk of change. It’ll also be interesting to see if Martinez holds out for higher wages over the offseason. That could potentially have some long-term effects as well.

MR: How’s our old friend Michael Parkhurst been?

DSS: Parkhurst is great. We keep waiting for him to hit a wall and it hasn’t happened yet. He’s become a proper MLS veteran that understands his weaknesses and tailors his game so that opposing attackers can’t exploit them. At 34, we aren’t sure how many more seasons he has in him. When he does retire, it’ll be a sad day for the Atlanta fanbase to see a consummate professional leave.

You can read Massive Report’s answers to Dirty South Soccer in their Three Questions story.