A 2-2 draw with the Columbus Crew Puts The Five Stripes In A Precarious Playoff Situation.
A midweek home loss to the NY Red Bulls, and Sunday night's draw with the Crew gave Atlanta a disappointing one point out of a possible six. In my last post, I pointed out that I would wait for Sunday night's outcome before predicting Atlanta's playoff fate. Obviously, at this point, stating that the Five Stripes will not make the seventh place playoff line is not exactly a risky bet, but stranger things have happened. Manager Gonzalo Pineda has finally found a starting eleven that most resembles the days of 2018 (sans Miguel Almiron), with numbers going forward at pace, quick one-two's, and a constant switch of play that put Columbus in many tough situations. Atlanta outplayed Columbus over ninety minutes, but give the Crew credit, with Cucho Hernández reminding us of the days of a impactful Josef Martinez.
No matter the results of the final nine games, Atlanta will need some very interesting results from the clubs ahead of them in the table. It is no longer Atlanta 'taking care of their house' but a combination of the Five Stripes maximizing points and other Eastern Conference clubs contributing to a mathematical scenario that is way above my pay grade. Let us take a look at Atlanta's remaining regular season games:
Sunday home to D.C. United - on paper, this is three points in the bag for Atlanta. Wayne Rooney's side is coming off a demeaning 6-0 loss to Philadelphia and it does not seem likely that they bounce back in Mercedes Benz Stadium. Net 3.
August 31, away to Philadelphia - on paper, the Union take the three points, but this is a game, with Philly already playoff-bound, for Atlanta to steal a point. Net 4
September 4 at Portland - the road trip continues and again, on paper, Portland handles their business at home. Atlanta needs the game way more than the Timbers and steals a win on the road. Net 7.
September 10, home to Toronto. It is a Saturday night game, it is Bob Bradley's team, and it is three points for Atlanta. Net 10.
September 14, away to Orlando - Exploria Stadium can be a tough place to play, but Óscar Pareja's side has not performed well in front of their supporters. Atlanta comes to Orlando and scratches out a win against the Lions. Net 13.
September 17, home to Philadelphia. By this time, Jim Curtain's side is posturing for the playoffs, having earned home-field advantage. Atlanta somehow takes three points. Net 16.
October 1, away to New England - After a two-week international break, the rested Five Stripes, in the cool Boston-area weather, steal a road win against Bruce Arena's side. Net 19.
October 9, home to NYCFC - The New Yorkers, already in a home-field playoff spot, are overrun by the Five Stripes who must win or go home. Net 22.
This league-best eight game finish gives Atlanta fifty-two points, and they somehow squeeze into the Eastern Conference playoffs as the 7th place seed. Unrealistic, but as one famous catcher for the NY Yankees so famously stated: "It ain't over till it's over." Any questions? :)
Gary Levitt @gary1123 justmytake.net
Photo credit: Soccer USA