Tools to the Match: How Atlanta United can win three straight

This weekend, Atlanta United head north to Minneapolis to face their fellow 2017 expansion side, Minnesota United. Atlanta (2-1-0) are hoping to make it three consecutive victories while Minnesota (2-2-0) is looking to bounce back after a 0-3 loss to New York Red Bulls last week. The clubs split their two matchups last season, so it’s all on the line for this one, bragging rights and all. Make sure to tune in Saturday night on FOX Sports South at 8:00 p.m. EST.

Ahead of this weekend’s match, we broke down the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot:

1) Score Early

Last time Atlanta United paid a visit to the Loons, they downed the home side 6-1, notching three goals in the first half. They sunk Minnesota’s hopes early, and that tactic could steer them to victory once again. The Loons have conceded in 16 straight games in MLS play –– the longest active streak in the league –– and in both of their losses this year, they’ve allowed two goals in the first half. Meanwhile, Atlanta has scored first and in the first half of both wins thus far. The Five Stripes like to start hot and Minnesota tries to cool things off, so finding the net early could prove to be the difference for the visitors.

2) Catch Calvo Forward

Arguably the most crucial piece to the Minnesota puzzle and their skipper for the past two seasons, Francisco Calvo sits in the center of the back line with a powerful presence. In addition to his defensive duties, his vision, composure on the ball and ability to pass makes him a pretty frequent influencer in the Loons’ attack. However, his involvement going forward can sometimes leave the back line exposed if he pushes too far into the attack. Atlanta United fans know the red, black and gold love a counter-attack, and their speedy front line is one of the most dangerous in the league running into space. So the Five Stripes will look to spring their fast-paced front line and take advantage of a fragmented defense.

3) Martinez in Minnesota

Josef Martinez’s Player of the Week performance against Vancouver a few weeks ago left the electric Venezuelan just one hat-trick shy of tying the league record in just 23 games played. But not as many will remember that it all started in the snow-filled 6-1 thriller in Minnesota last season, when Martinez notched his first hat trick in red, black and gold. Atlanta United’s leading goal-scorer in 2017 and so far this season, Martinez found his footing last year in Minneapolis, opening his MLS account in style. Five Stripes fans will hope the same fate is in the forecast on Saturday night.

Follow the Match:

Kickoff is set for 8:00 p.m. EST and will be broadcast on FOX Sports South and streamed on FOX Sports GO. You can listen to the game on the Atlanta United app or through one of our radio partners: 92.9 The Game or, for Spanish-speaking listeners, La Mejor Atlanta. Click here for a full rundown of how to follow along with the game.