1. Hector Villalba
Just like Julian Gressel, Hector Villalba is finding a hot streak at the right time. In his last three games, he’s scored three goals, including this past week’s Goal of the Week. Over his last nine games, he has four goals and four assists.
Just like most of the Five Stripes, Villalba has not put up great numbers against the Red Bulls. He hasn’t registered a goal or assist in 195 minutes and made just six shots with none falling on goal. Ideally, this will be the weekend to break through with a strong performance. It can be done, especially with the run of good form that Villalba is currently experiencing.
I think Villalba will be Atlanta’s X-factor. New York have a strong backline and defensive midfield, but Atlanta has a potent attack to counteract that. The Red Bulls might be able to contain Josef Martinez, but if they find a way to accomplish that, they leave the window open for other threats. If Tyler Adams can shut down Miguel Almiron, then that still leaves Villalba to impact the game. Throw in Gressel and Ezequiel Barco, and even Nagbe, and that leaves Villalba the opportunity to leave a mark on Red Bulls.
Hopefully Villalba can continue the scoring. He only has seven goals this season, but the Five Stripes are 7-0-0 in those same games. A Villalba goal will likely mean an Atlanta win.