It's the most complicated time of the year for MLS teams, with the weather steamy, the transfer window open and nothing yet secure when it comes to playoff places. This week the intrigue kicks up just a small notch more with a United vs. United showdown in Atlanta, a chance for another United to prove their postseason bona-fides versus Real Salt Lake and the latest installment in Matias Almeyda's man-marking revolution in San Jose.
United vs. United
There's drama in Atlanta following Gonzalo "Pity" Martinez's comments to an Argentine media outlet that he wasn't happy with United head coach Frank de Boer's decision to speak to the media about subbing off Martinez in a game against the Montreal Impact on June 29. The club says the air is "cleared," but there's a real concern that the 25-year-old just doesn't fit with the Dutchman's system.
Atlanta earned an important confidence-boosting 5-0 win over the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday without Martinez in the starting lineup. De Boer's decision to use Martinez as late substitute made sense with a hectic schedule, but it means that the player missed out on the mental boost from the goal party against Houston. Will De Boer turn back to Martinez against D.C. on Sunday (4 p.m. ET, ESPN)?
It seems like a lifetime ago, but these two teams opened the season against each other. DCU got the better of the champs on that day, ruining De Boer's MLS debut with a 2-0 win at Audi Field.
D.C. has its own issues with a creative Argentine player. Luciano Acosta was Robin to Wayne Rooney's Batman during a run to the playoffs in 2018, but his production has dropped off dramatically this season. The simplest explanation for the dip is that a failed move to Paris Saint-Germain during the offseason changed the alchemy in D.C. and put Acosta off his game.
There's no indication that Acosta is a problem child. He's not Martinez. There are no interviews on Argentine television. The problem for D.C. is that as long as he's not creating goals, it's all the same.