The All-Star break is in the rearview and it’s time to return to the matches that matter for Atlanta United (11-9-3), who host the LA Galaxy (12-9-1) at Mercedes-Benz Stadium this weekend. If results go their way, Atlanta United could finish the weekend in second place in the Supporters’ Shield race, so they’ll be eager to use their rowdy home crowd to their advantage to silence one of the best teams in the West so far this season.
Ahead of one of the interconference matchup, we broke down the Tools to the Match, presented by The Home Depot:
Exploit the Absences
It’s fair to say that Atlanta United are playing the LA Galaxy at the right time. Not only are they coming off a tough 4-0 loss, but they will also be missing some crucial players, including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has scored more than half of his team’s goals so far this year. And that’s not the only one missing, with dynamic young playmaker Efrain Alvarez and a leader in their back line in Diego Polenta both suspended as well. That doesn’t mean Atlanta United can expect an easy day; there are plenty of other players on the field for LA that can turn a game on its head, and they’ll be missing a key player of their own with Leandro González Pirez suspended due to yellow card accumulation. But Atlanta United will have to take advantage of the holes in the roster that those key figures will leave in order to come out with a win this weekend.
Dominate Dos Santos
While Zlatan’s goals steal the headlines seemingly every week for the Galaxy, there’s another player who’s been just as vital to the team’s success this season. Mexican international and former LaLiga standout Jonathan Dos Santos is a complete central midfielder, equally capable at breaking up play as he is pushing the ball forward in attack. His range of passing covers the whole field and his mind is just as sharp –– so look for the Galaxy to get him the ball as much as possible to try to dictate the play from the center of the park. If Atlanta United can isolate him by cutting off his passing supply –– and keep constant pressure on him when he has it to break up his rhythm –– it will go a long way toward shutting down the Galaxy offense this weekend.
The King Chases History
The dog days of the MLS summer can be a grind, but it seems to be when Josef Martinez is at his absolute best. For the second season in a row, he has feasted during the middle stretch of the season, and considering his record at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, it wouldn’t be unwise to feed him early and often once again. A goal this weekend would be his ninth straight league game with a goal, tying Diego Valeri and himself for the longest streak in league history. With Diego Polenta missing from the Galaxy back line, it only gives him more opportunity against a defense that has been shaky without him in the past. Whether it be through the air or on the ground, Josef Martinez is in red-hot form. If Atlanta United can find him in the right areas of the field, it could mean a crucial goal –– and another step toward history for the reigning MVP.
The match is set to kick off Saturday at 5 p.m. EST from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, and you can watch the match on FOX. Click here for tickets, or for more details on how to follow along from home, click here.