(Atlanta United Twitter)
Lights, camera, action... Atlanta United's 2021 season takes off in Costa Rica against one of the hottest teams in CONCACAF.
L.D. Alajuelense vs. Atlanta United
Tuesday, April 6th
CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 (Leg 1 of 2)
Location: Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto (Alajuela, Costa Rica)
Time: 8:00 pm
Where to Watch: Fox Sports 1
Atlanta United (4-3-3)
Brad Guzan (GK), George Bello (LB), George Campbell (LCB), Miles Robinson (RCB), Brooks Lennon (RB), Santiago Sosa (CDM), Emerson Hyndman (CM), Ezequiel Barco (CAM), Erik Lopez (LW), Josef Martinez (ST), Jurgen Damm (RW)
I'll be honest, your lineup prediction is probably as good as mine. We have no idea what Heinze is going to throw out on the pitch Tuesday due to the abundance of offseason acquisitions and storylines. The surest thing is that the big bald man will be manning the net for his 5th consecutive season. Bello and Robinson will be every match starters along the back-line as long as they're rested and healthy. Because of the contract not being signed yet and testing positive for COVID-19, alleged arrival Alan Franco will remain in Atlanta. I think Heinze is going to test Campbell early into the second center back spot over the likes of Anton Walkes since he's paired with Robinson in each preseason match. If I'm right... wow, that's a huge first career start for the 19 year old. The best competition in my opinion is the battle between Brooks Lennon and Ronald Hernandez for the starting right back spot. I've heard both guys had strong preseasons, but I'll give the nod to Lennon due to his experience from his 26 appearances in 2020. Sosa is the prize signing this offseason and will immediately be an integral part of the lineup. Rossetto's training injury and trip home to Brazil along with Ibarra's inexperience, it's Hyndman's chance to earn his role as the team's box-to-box midfielder. Barco has been playing centrally so far in the scrimmages, so I'm guessing to see him here in the early matches as well. If you don't remember, designated player Marcelino Moreno received a red card in the second half of the Club America match in December, so he won't be there. Mulraney has received some high praise this offseason, but give me Erik Lopez on the left flank with Jurgen Damm on the right. The last big question is if Josef Martinez is ready to start in an actual match. If he is, the king will be more than determined. If they want to ease him off the bench, you'll see highly respected veteran Lisandro Lopez leading the attack in this first fixture.
L.D. Alajuelense (4-4-2)
Leonel Moreira (GK), Yurguin Roman (LB), Daniel Arreola (LCB), Alexis Gamboa (RCB) Jose Salvatierra (RB), Barlon Sequeira (LM), Alexander Lopez (LCM), Bryan Ruiz (RCM), Alonso Martinez (RM), Marcel Hernandez (LST), Johan Venegas (RST)
This is such a tough draw for the Five Stripes. They are travelling to a club who has not conceded any of their 16 league matches so far in the Costa Rican division as they have nine wins and seven draws. The team is led by veteran captain Bryan Ruiz, the 35-year old who has a strong resume for both club and country. If you remember the 2015 World Cup, Ruiz scored and upset Italy 1-0 in the final group stage match that pushed Costa Rica into the knockout rounds. The club has a lot of attacking options, most recently ran through Marcel Hernandez and Johan Venegas. Arreola and Salvatierra bring experience to the back four, while goalkeeper Leonel Moreira is one of the strongest in the region. As we know from years past, this first leg is difficult to produce a result.
I am coming into this match without any expectations. I just want to sit back and soak in that we finally have a full season returning. This will be the first match of Gabriel Heinze's hopefully successful tenure. In my opinion, it will be a very strong trip if they return to the States with a draw and look to finish them off at home next week.
I have CCL Fever... do you?
(Major League Soccer)