The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Doug Roberson (@DougRobersonAJC) breaks down Atlanta United’s schedule by month in this series. Second up is April. Here is February and March:
April 5 at FC Cincinnati
Time/TV: 5 p.m., FSSO/FSSE.
Stadium: Nippert Stadium.
Last year’s record: 24 points; 12 at home, 12 on the road.
Last year’s meetings: 1-1 draw on March 10 at home and 3-1 win on Sept. 18 away.
Notable changes: This was one of the worst teams in MLS history last season, its first in MLS. But it started to gain some traction in the final third after ownership realized it had vested itself in the wrong general manager and wrong coach, who selected many players that everyone else could see weren’t going to work, especially for the price paid to acquire. New general manager Gerard Nijkamp and manager Ron Jans are sensible and seem to have a long-term plan. The team added former Atlanta United striker Brandon Vazquez, who with consistent minutes has the potential to be a very good player in MLS. It added former Philadelphia midfielder Haris Medunjanin, who isn’t the quickest cat but can unlock a defense with a pass and is good at free kicks. The club added Swedish centerback Tom Pettersson, who should be an upgrade on the enigmatic Kendall Waston. It also added versatile defender Saad Abdul-Salaam.
Doug’s thoughts: If Atlanta United is focused, this should be three points. Cincinnati is an interesting city, particularly if you stay near Nippert Stadium. There are a variety of restaurants and bars and you can walk to the stadium.
April 19 vs. Portland Timbers
Time/TV: 6:30 p.m., FS1.
Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Last year’s record: 49 points; 28 at home, 21 on the road.
Last year’s meeting: 2-0 win on Aug. 18 away.
Notable changes: Portland lost Brian Fernandez but re-signed Diego Valeri and goalkeeper Steve Clark and added Diego Chara’s brother, Yimmi, as an attacking threat, and Croatia’s Dario Zuparic as a centerback.
Doug’s thoughts: The Timbers had a weird 2019 in which they never seemed to find a comfort level on offense and defense. Because of work being done to Providence Park, the team played its first 12 league games on the road. The thought was the team would make up lost points once it finally got home. It didn’t, going 8-5-4. Put it all together and it must have been a strain mentally and physically. They won’t have those particular types of strains this season. I think Portland gets the three points here.
April 26 at Orlando City SC
Time/TV: 1 p.m., ESPN.
Stadium: Exploria Stadium.
Last year’s record: 37 points; 21 at home, 16 on the road.
Last year’s meetings: 1-0 win on May 12 at home and 1-0 win on Aug. 23 away.
Notable changes: Everything. Let’s start with new manager Oscar Pareja, formerly of Tijuana. On loan, the club added Brazilian centerback Antonio Carlos and Argentine centerback Rodrigo Schlegel. It also kept Uri Rosell and Ruan while letting go of Lamine Sane, Will Johnson and Sacha Kljestan, who was yet another Designated Player to arrive in Orlando, not replicate past success, and leave. Which brings us to Dom Dwyer, a striker the team seems desperate to unload with no takers.
Doug’s thoughts: You have to figure at some point the Lions are going to figure out how to be successful and make the playoffs. The fan base deserves it. But, this roster….still doesn’t look capable of making the playoffs. Nani looked great when he first arrived and soon looked tired with just five goals from June 1 until the end of the season. Though Orlando has never defeated Atlanta United, I think the Lions get one point from this one.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.