The postseason is right around the corner, but there’s one final match in the regular season for a Five Stripes side looking to hit the home stretch on a high. Atlanta United (17-12-4) are looking to bounce back from their Eastern Conference road trip with a win, while the New England Revolution (11-10-12) are fighting for postseason seeding of their own after a strong second-half of the season.
Ahead of the final match of the regular season, we broke down the Tools to the Match, presented by The Home Depot:
The addition of MLS legend Bruce Arena as head coach was a turning point in their season, but don’t underestimate the addition of Gustavo Bou, who has nine goals in just 13 matches since arriving midseason from LigaMX side Xolos. A former Racing Club forward from Argentina, Bou is a complete striker, capable of scoring with power or finesse, with either foot or his head, and is always a threat when he gets the ball in the attacking third. It will be key to keep his back to goal whenever he’s in the attacking phase and not give him an inch of space when he does get a sight of goal. But the biggest first step to stopping an in-form striker is to keep a body on him at all times and prevent him from getting any easy possessions. Starving him of service in the first place will go a long way toward shutting down the player they call the Panther.
While Bou is often the finisher for the Revolution’s chances, the one who makes the attack tick is former Premier League and LaLiga standout Carles Gil. Equally adept at playing on the wing or centrally as the creative spark in the middle, Gil will be constantly looking to find the space in between the midfield and the attack to get possession, put the defense on their heels, and find the incisive pass to one of his forward teammates. And with ten goals and 12 assists this season, he’s equally adept at finding the back of the net himself. Keeping him quiet will be the primary defensive duty for the Atlanta United midfield. Limiting his comfort level and time on the ball will be the start, as well as preventing him from finding one-on-one situations with defenders or getting a full head of steam running at the back line. If they can keep Gil quiet, it could stop the Revs attack before it ever fully gets started.
Use the Home Field
There are a lot of objectives for Atlanta United this weekend in their final regular-season match. Getting players like Josef Martinez and Ezequiel Barco, who are both returning from injury, ready for the postseason is key. Tightening up at the back to get back to their best in time for knockout play will be crucial, while giving Michael Parkhurst a win in the final regular-season match of his storied career would be a positive as well. But there’s plenty on the line with this result: a win would clinch the second seed in the East, meaning if they win their first postseason match, they will play their second match in the playoffs at home as well. Few teams in this league have the kind of home-field advantage Atlanta United has. Using that to earn another possible match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be key for the Five Stripes as they look to hit the postseason running.
With just one regular-season match remaining, every minute is crucial for the Five Stripes as they push toward the postseason to defend their MLS Cup championship. Click here to reserve your spot, or if you can’t make the trip, click here for all the ways to tune in from home.