Columbus Crew SC vs. Atlanta United FC Pick & Prediction FEBRUARY 24th 2024

The Columbus Crew begin their quest to become the first repeat champion in a dozen years on Saturday by hosting one of the teams they ousted in the postseason along the way to winning the 2023 MLS Cup.

Atlanta United last played in Columbus on Nov. 12 when the Crew won 4-2 in the deciding third game of Round One.

After advancing past Orlando City SC and FC Cincinnati, the Crew earned their third MLS Cup on Dec. 9 with a 2-1 home victory over Los Angeles FC.

“It wasn’t long ago we were here lifting a trophy,” Crew midfielder Aidan Morris said. “So, to be back in front of our own fans will give us a good extra bit of energy and realize what we missed in these past few months.”

The Crew can become the first team to win consecutive MLS Cups since the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2011-12. The last time Columbus was champion in 2020 it missed the playoffs the next two seasons.

That’s why Morris is excited to be challenged from the start by Atlanta.

“I think it’s a perfect test,” he said. “They’ve got some players on that that team that you’ve always got to watch out for. It will be good for us.”

The other repeat champions are D.C. United (1996-97) and the Houston Dynamo (2006-07).

Atlanta won the MLS Cup in its second season in 2018 and hopes to return to glory on the strength of a dynamic offense led by Thiago Almada, who had a league-leading 19 goals along with 11 assists last season, and Giorgos Giakoumakis (17 goals, three assists).

The 66 regular-season goals by Atlanta were second in MLS to the Crew’s 67, but Atlanta coach Gonzalo Pineda knows the defending must be better.

“Can we have a little bit more balance and better defensive actions?” Pineda said. “I think that guarantees us a couple more points that hopefully will put us in the top-four, the top tier, of the conference, so we can be a more complete team.”

–Field Level Media

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