After a grueling seven matches of the past month, Atlanta United is looking to finish May on a back-to-back home win streak as they continue their climb up the Eastern Conference standings. They face an in-form team in conference rival Chicago Fire, but the Five Stripes will be hoping another packed house at Mercedes-Benz Stadium will send them into a June break with all three points.
It’s a clash of two clubs fighting for postseason places, so make sure to tune in at 6 p.m. ET on UniMás. For all the details on how to follow the match, click here.
Atlanta United (7-5-2)
Atlanta United’s bumpy start seems far in the rearview mirror, with the reigning MLS Cup champions flying up the Eastern Conference. With six clean sheet victories in the past month alone, the Five Stripes are now in touching distance of first place in the East, just needing to win their matches in hand to claim Conference supremacy.
The run of form included a historic run for the back line with five straight clean sheet victories, which was the longest in league history. With another shutout win against Minnesota United on Wednesday, Atlanta United set a club record with their fourth consecutive clean sheet win at home. Leandro González Pirez and Miles Robinson have been the constants, each putting up stellar starts to their season. Franco Escobar has been rock solid on the right, and continues to add goals at crucial times for the attack. With Michael Parkhurst and Brek Shea playing the left back position as a committee, and a strong set of defensive midfielders at his disposal further up the field, Frank de Boer has a few selection headaches of the best kind for one of the best defensive units in the league.
But Atlanta United’s winning run has come with some stellar attacking play. Mercedes-Benz Stadium was rocking on Wednesday night thanks to another vintage night for Josef Martinez, whose late brace all but secured the win and sent the 17s into the rafters. Frank de Boer told reporters this week that Tito Villalba is expected to be out this weekend, but Pity Martinez showed on Wednesday he’s settling in with his teammates and is fully ready to take on the responsibility in the absence of Ezequiel Barco at the U-20 World Cup. Dion Pereira continues to prove he can make an impact at the first-team level, and an interesting tactical wrinkle on Wednesday brought Julian Gressel further inside the field –– it will be interesting to see where Frank de Boer lines him up this weekend.
Chicago Fire (4-5-6)
After a bumpy start to the year, the Chicago Fire have lost just one of their last six MLS matches, scoring multiple goals three times. But they’ve been leaky on the road –– conceding a combined seven times in their last two matches –– so the Five Stripes will be hoping to take advantage of that at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
That form has been helped by the arrival of Argentine midfielder Nicolás Gaitán, the former Atlético Madrid winger who joined from the Chinese Super League ten matches ago. He’s quick on the ball and quicker with his mind, with a classy touch that is already one of the best in the league. His combination with a free-roaming Bastian Schweinsteiger add European class to a physical, man-marking squad. Aleksander Katai brings plenty of quality, the former LaLiga winger looking to cut inside from the left onto his dominant right foot, while American duo Djordje Mihailovic and Dax McCarty fill out the center of the park. They’ll all be trying to feed service to a new addition leading the line, former Philadelphia Union forward CJ Sapong, who already has six goals for his new club so far this year.
A much-changed Fire side also has a brand new face in the back line, Minnesota United’s Francisco Calvo made his debut in the Fire back line just a few weeks ago. He’ll be hoping a change of scenery can bring out the quality that impressed so consistently on the international level with Costa Rica, teaming up with Canadian fullback Raheem Edwards and long-time Fire stalwart Johan Kappelhof in the back line. And keep an eye on Bastian Schweinsteiger in the back as well: the former midfielder has been deployed in the back line with the Fire –– helping dictate the play when they Fire are in possession. Atlanta United will have to disrupt his rhythm, and attack a side that’s shown some defensive frailty on the road this year.
It’s an Eastern Conference matchup, and the Five Stripes last appearance at Mercedes-Benz Stadium until June 29th. Make sure to get your tickets here –– or if you can’t make it, tune in at 6:00 p.m. ET Saturday on UniMás, or listen to the match via 92.9 The Game, La Mejor Atlanta or via the Atlanta United App. For more info on how to follow all the action, click here.