After a somewhat self-inflicted 3-1 defeat in the first leg of Atlanta United’s Round of 16 matchup with Herediano, the Five Stripes clawed back with a 4-0 victory in the second leg. That was enough to send them through to the quarterfinals with a 5-3 aggregate victory. They will now face Monterrey in another two-legged fixture, again playing on the road first. The away leg is scheduled for tomorrow night at 10:00 PM, and I’m back again with a look ahead at our opponents, along with my predictions for the Atlanta United lineup and final score.
Monterrey are a scary opponent for anyone at any stage in the CONCACAF Champions League. Since the start of the Champions League era in 2008, they have won the competitions three times, the most of any team. Only one other team has even made it to the final on three occasions, fellow Liga MX side Cruz Azul. Monterrey qualified for the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League by reaching the finals of the 2017 Liga MX Apertura playoffs.
In terms of the Liga MX table, Monterrey currently sits second in the league, one point back of Tigres UANL. However, with their 9-3-0 (W-D-L) record, Monterrey are the only team still undefeated in Liga MX. Led by Argentinian striker Rogelio Funes Mori’s seven goals, Monterrey have scored 22 league goals in total while only conceding eight through nine matches. At home, they will likely look to bring the game to Atlanta United and try to force through some goals, although this may leave them exposed to quick counters from Atlanta.
After three competitive fixtures, it’s become apparent who Frank de Boer sees as his best eleven, and it would be a massive surprise to see any deviation from that group in this match. Josef Martínez will start up front, flanked by Ezequiel Barco and Pity Martínez playing as inverted wingers. Darlington Nagbe and Eric Remedi will play together in midfield and Julian Gressel and Brek Shea will play as wingbacks. The back three of Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Michael Parkhurst and Miles Robinson should also remain unchanged unless Frank de Boer opts to use the more experienced Florentin Pogba ahead of Robinson. Brad Guzan will start in goal barring freak injury in training or illness.
Edit Tuesday, March 5, 10:07 PM: Doug Roberson of the Atlanta Journal Constitution has reported that Julian Gressel has picked up an ankle injury in training. With Franco Escobar still out, expect Tito Villalba to start if Julian Gressel is unable to play. This will bring a lot more aggression to the right side, but may leave that side exposed defensively.
This is going to be a very tough matchup for Atlanta United. In a two-legged fixture, it can be critical to get an away goal in the first leg to give yourself some momentum going into the second leg, or just to keep yourself in it like Atlanta United’s round of sixteen matchup. Frank de Boer’s men will likely look to hold a strong Monterrey attack at bay while still getting forward to create chances themselves. But with the defensive fragilities that the Five Stripes have shown in the first leg of the Herediano matchup and against DC United, I can’t see them coming away with a clean sheet. I think they’ll find a way to find an away goal, but I think we’re likely to see an Atlanta United loss on the road, although they’ll keep it manageable for the home leg. Final prediction, 2-1 to Monterrey.
I also have one fun fact about the opposition. Monterrey are known as “Los Rayados”, Spanish for “The Striped Ones”, and their crest features five stripes much like the crest of Atlanta United, making this matchup a meeting of two teams associated strongly with stripes within their respective leagues.
Other Writers Predictions:
Daniel: 1-0 Monterrey
Mason: 1-0 Atlanta United