The final match of the regular season is here, and there’s still plenty on the line as Atlanta United looks to clinch the second seed in the East and the right to host at least a second home match in the postseason. But to do so they’ll have to beat a New England Revolution team fighting for postseason seeding themselves after a strong second half of the season. Expect a playoff atmosphere at Mercedes-Benz Stadium with two teams looking to enter the knockout stages of the season in top form.
It all kicks off Sunday at 4:00 p.m. ET on Fox Sports Southeast. If you can’t make the trip, click here for all the ways to tune in from home.
Atlanta United (17-12-4)
Atlanta United are coming off a tough Eastern Conference road trip with a loss in New York City and a draw in Montreal. But no one enjoys a better home field advantage than the Five Stripes, who will be looking to rebound back to their best to hit the ground running in the postseason.
There is good news on the injury front. After Ezequiel Barco’s substitute appearance off the bench after an extended injury absence, reigning MVP Josef Martinez made his return to training this week after missing the last two matches. Whether it’s in the starting lineup or off the bench, having two key players back will only give this team more confidence in front of their home fans. Regardless, both players are expected to get some sort of playing time as they look to build up their conditioning ahead of the postseason run. It’s an otherwise clean bill of health in the attack, with Pity Martínez, Darlington Nagbe and the ever-present runs down the flanks from Justin Meram and Julian Gressel all fit and available for selection.
On the defensive side is a team that bounced back from a blip in their season against NYCFC. After an improvement in Montreal, they will be looking to do one better to get one final clean sheet before heading into the postseason. Leandro González Pirez, Miles Robinson and Franco Escobar have been the first-choice combination for much of the season, but Michael Parkhurst showed in Montreal he has plenty left to contribute in what will be the final regular-season match of his decorated career. Brad Guzan will be looking to solidify his spot at the top of the league’s clean sheet standings, while Eric Remedi and Mo Adams will be back available for selection after serving their one-match suspensions for accumulation of yellow cards last week. This is a team getting healthy at the right time, and will be hoping for one confidence-boosting performance to send themselves into the postseason on a high.
New England Revolution (11-10-12)
Halfway through the season it seemed as if it would another lost year for one of MLS’ original teams, but a coaching change and a key signing have pushed the Revolution back up into the postseason places.
Former LA Galaxy and U.S. Men’s National Team manager Bruce Arena brought organization and confidence to a team that already had talent on the roster. But the catalyst on the field was the addition of Argentine striker Gustavo Bou, who has nine goals in just 13 matches since joining the club mid-season. A lethal finisher equally capable of scoring with power or finesse, the former Xolos and Racing Club forward is capable of a moment of magic from anywhere in the attacking third. He’ll be looking to combine constantly with another contender for MLS Newcomer of the Year in Carles Gil, a former Premier League and LaLiga standout who’s tallied an impressive ten goals and twelve assists since joining MLS at the start of the year. Gil will be looking to find the space in between the midfield and attack, and if he gets the ball there he is capable of playing the incisive ball for one of his teammates or taking on the shot himself. With willing runners like Cristian Penilla and MLS veteran Teal Bunbury rounding out a strong attack, they have weapons that can take on any defense in this league.
Arena has also brought some consistency to an athletic back line that can be tough to break down, especially in compact areas. Andrew Farrell and Antonio Mlinar are the first-choice center back pairing with former Premier League defender Michael Mancienne usually brought off the bench. DeJuan Jones and Brandon Bye lock down the wings in the absence of former Colorado Rapids standout Edgar Castillo, usually opting for a more defensive approach behind their flair, attacking wingers. And it all starts with Wilfried Zahibo and Luis Caicedo in front of them, looking to lock down the midfield areas before the opponent can reach their back line. With Matt Turner having one of his best seasons yet in the Revolution goal, they present a tough challenge from front to back, and will make Atlanta United –– and whoever they face in the playoffs –– earn everything they get.
With a postseason berth secured, now the focus for Atlanta United is on finishing the regular season strong to hit the playoffs on a good run of form. Click here to reserve your tickets, or if you can’t make the trip to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, click here for all the ways to tune in from home.