No time to dwell on Wednesday’s result for Atlanta United, who are right back on the road for their final match away from home this season. They face a Montreal Impact side fresh off winning their domestic cup midweek, and with their postseason hopes still mathematically alive, they will be fighting for their lives for all 90 minutes.
It all kicks off Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. ET on Fox Sports Southeast. If you can’t make the trip North, click here for all the ways to tune in from home.
Atlanta United (17-12-3)
The top of the Eastern Conference may now be out of reach for Atlanta United, but there’s plenty left to fight for when it comes to postseason seeding over the final two matches of the season.
They’ll have to do it without the reigning MVP, with Josef Martinez not expected to be back from injury for the weekend trip to Montreal. But there is good news in the shape of Ezequiel Barco, who Frank de Boer told reporters this week could be available for selection after his injury absence. He’ll be joining an otherwise healthy attack, with Tito Villalba making his first start in months in New York and Julian Gressel and Justin Meram both bringing fresh legs after getting Wednesday off from the starting lineup. Pity Martínez is coming off a solid performance and will be looking to pull the strings for his attacking partners whoever they end up being, while Darlington Nagbe has been an ever-present in the midfield with his exceptional possession play.
There will be a shake-up in the midfield next to him, however, with Eric Remedi suspended for this weekend’s match due to an accumulation of yellow cards. But don’t expect any drop in play if the always-reliable Jeff Larentowicz brings his own style of midfield bite to the team. And you can expect an extra bit of fight from a back line eager to bounce back from a disappointing night in New York. Aside from Brek Shea’s season-ending injury, Frank de Boer has his entire arsenal of defenders at his disposal. If they can perform at their best, they can help Brad Guzan extend his league-leading clean sheet record in between the posts. It’s the fifth match in 15 days, with a well-deserved few days off until their next matchup. Now is the time to leave it all on the field after the final grueling stretch of the regular season.
Montreal Impact (11-17-4)
The Montreal Impact come into the match on an emotional high, after beating their Canadian rivals Toronto FC on aggregate to clinch the 2019 Canadian Championship on aggregate on Wednesday. With anything but a win officially eliminating them from postseason contention, you can expect a full effort from the hosts on Sunday.
It’s been a tough season of injuries for their longtime talisman Nacho Piatti, with the Argentine winger battling injuries for much of the second half of the season. Their key man in his absence has been Algerian international and former Serie A star Saphir Taïder, the rock in the middle of the park who is leading the team in goals from the midfield. Joining him is Canadian international Samuel Piette, adding the tactical discipline to Taïder’s roaming, box-to-box style to form a solid partnership that’s tough to break through. If you get past them there’s a veteran center back pairing of Rudy Camacho and Rod Fanni in front of longtime MLS stalwart Evan Bush in the Impact goal. On the flanks are two fullbacks who love to get forward, with longtime Premier League starter Bacary Sagna on the right and American international Daniel Lovitz on the left. It’s a veteran defensive side that plays well at home –– so the Five Stripes will have to be at their best to get through for a chance.
But Piatti did play in the Canadian Championship against Toronto, and adds a new level of quality to the attack. Expect him to line up alongside former Barcelona starlet Bojan Krkic pulling the strings in the middle of the park. MLS veteran Maxi Urruti will be constantly looking to drop back from the striker position to contribute to the build-up with classy, technical link-up play. But Atlanta United will have to be careful not to be sucked into the midfield by his runs, because he will be looking to spring Piatti and the explosive youngster Orji Okwonkwo behind the lines. Don’t let their position in the table fool you –– this is a team that can challenge any back line when they’re on form.
With a postseason berth secured, now the focus is on finishing the regular season strong to hit the playoffs on a good run of form. If you can’t make the trip north of the border, click here for all the ways to tune in from home.