New York City Football Club are at home to Atlanta United on Sunday.
Hi Joe, thanks for speaking with us. How long have you been covering Atlanta United?
I've been covering the team in a journalistic capacity since the middle of it's inaugural season in 2017, but began blogging for SB Nation's Dirty South Soccer in late 2016 prior to the start of that momentous season.
What would you describe as your highlight during that time?
It's hard not to say basically the entire 2018 season. While covering a team that won MLS Cup and captured the attention of the national soccer media was incredible, I look back on it now with an appreciation of getting to witness a manager like Tata Martino work up close and personal. Even before the team won MLS Cup, you could sense how the club was helping push the league forward in real time, and it was a privilege to be a direct witness to the players and staff involved.
Atlanta currently sit 11th in the Eastern Conference. How would you evaluate their season so far?
Mostly, terribly unlucky. I've never seen a team go through an injury crisis the way this team has, and frankly it's admirable how well they are still able to play considering how many pieces are missing. That said, the team has squandered points along the way. But the fact that they are putting themselves in positions to win leaves open the hope that as some players return to health, they can right the ship enough to reach the playoffs as they did last season.
If you were to identify Atlanta's dangerman who would that be?
Thiago Almada, without a doubt. We know Josef Martinez's history and Luiz Araujo also has an incredible amount of skill, but Almada is the player that can pull the strings and unlock an opponent. He returns from a three-match suspension (for bumping a referee) Sunday, and not a moment too soon.
What do you think will be the decisive factor in Sunday's game?
Outside of individual errors, something every team in MLS struggles with (particularly in Yankee Stadium), it's defending set pieces and crosses. It's something that sounds so simple but has been an absolute killer for Atlanta United going back to last season. NYCFC fans may remember that they capitalized on this facet of the game in these two teams' playoff matchup last season.
And finally for any of our fans that may be in Atlanta for a game, are there any spots you'd suggest they check out?
Fortunately, Atlanta United has done a great job creating a network of pubs and restaurants around the Atlanta area that will show the game. The list is here and includes my personal favorite, Brewhouse Cafe, in the heart of Little Five Points.