For the first time this season, Louisville City is on the road! Looking for redemption after the loss to Indy Eleven, LouCity is heading to Georgia to take on Atlanta United 2 on Sunday night. This will be the second encounter between the two sides after Louisville snagged the 2-0 win season opener. ATL2 may be an “MLS2” side that generally underperforms, however, they have been proving to others this season that they should not be underestimated.
While it’s easy to write off a "Two" team, they can be surprisingly decent (ex. NYRB2 of years past) and Atlanta United 2 might be one of those cases. As covered in the previous match preview for ATL, they didn’t have a great season in 2020. To make matters worse, they lost their coach right before the season started. Unfortunately, it’s happened to them once more and Jack Collison has taken the helm. He is another internal promotion and given how they handled the last shakeup, it’s doubtful it will be of much negative impact (in the short term at least).
In their first six matches, ATL Jr is 2-2-2. Most notable on the list of matches was their 5-0 thumping of FC Tulsa. This outlier of a scoreline has helped to bolster their average goals per match which sits at 1.7, 6th best in the league. Their true offensive prowess is more closely associated with their average expected goals (xG) of 0.94. Nothing to write home about. Defensively, they are fairly average (average xG against 1.11) but it is worth pointing out their possession statistics. They average the 3rd most accurate passes per match and the 4th highest average possession. Yes, possession is not indicative of winning, however, it shows that they do have the ability to control a match even if the score doesn’t go their way.
Now having seen this current iteration of Atlanta in action, we have a clearer picture of who their key players are on the squad. First up is Fernando Matías Benítez. At only 20 years old, this young Argentinian striker is proving to be a promising prospect. While he only has one goal to his name, he leads his team in individual xG with 2.40 and expected points added through taking shots (xPA) of 1.82. He also leads his team in key passes. Given his age, it’s not a far stretch of the imagination to expect his output to increase throughout the season as he develops. Next is Aiden McFadden. The third round 2021 MLS SuperDraft selection has arguably been their leading man. In a team-leading 579 minutes of play, he leads his squad with four goals, the second-highest xG of 1.5, and the third-highest average player rating of 7.50. He is only 22 and like Benítez, he will likely only improve. You also have Chris Allan. The young Sunderland product has found the goal from his midfield role and has managed a player rating of 7.16. And finally, you have Tyler Wolff. He is only 18 and has several appearances with Atlanta United 1 under his belt. This season he has his team’s second-most goals with two with a player rating of 6.91.
While this Atlanta team is full of promising youth, they will have to pull that talent together to try to get the best of the purple juggernaut. FiveThirtyEight isn’t too optimistic and is only giving them a 23% chance to win. Being the first road match of the season and missing a few key pieces such as Oscar Jimenez and Jonathan Gomez, ATL could be looking to take advantage of the situation. Brian Ownby will be available again for the first time in two matches so that is a plus for Louisville City. Will LouCity rebound or will Atlanta United 2 continue to force their way into the Central Division conversation? We will find out Sunday! Vamos Morados!