With the regular season behind us, now is when the pressure turns up in the MLS Cup playoffs –– and with a new single-elimination format, every moment matters more than ever for Atlanta United as they look to defend their MLS Cup title. Standing in their way of a berth in the Eastern Conference Final is a team they haven’t beaten yet this year in the Philadelphia Union. But this team has shown they know how to win in knockout play, so expect a relentless performance from the Five Stripes at their home fortress of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Ahead of the major postseason clash, we broke down the Tools to the Match, presented by The Home Depot:
Find the Mentality
The tactics are set, now it’s time to win the battle on the field. Just like last season, Atlanta United players are talking again and again about the importance of “winning the fight” –– having the winning mentality to beat the opponent in front of you. In the postseason, every team is talented, but the difference can be that extra bit of desire and experience to know how to come on top. Atlanta United has shown time and time again that they are ready to turn the intensity up in the toughest moments, already taking home two trophies this year. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but if they can play like “warriors,” as Josef Martinez called them last week, they will get a spot in the Eastern Conference Final.
Last year’s postseason run was built on a gritty defensive solidity, especially at home where they conceded just one goal in three matches. That’s been the case again this year at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where Brad Guzan has kept nine clean sheets in his last 15 home appearances –– including another in the postseason last week –– more than any other goalkeeper in that time. Injuries may be piling up with Miles Robinson and Michael Parkhurst joining Brek Shea on the injury report in the back line. But if they can use that home-field to their advantage and stay solid again this week with another clean sheet, it will go a long way to securing their place in the next round.
It’s no secret that Atlanta United has skillful players all over the field, but as mentioned before, that only wins in the postseason if it’s combined with desire. Atlanta United got an extra night’s rest since their win over the Revolution, and the Union had to fight back from a two-goal deficit over a grueling 120 minutes against the Red Bulls last week –– and now they still have to travel to Atlanta. The Union will be in high spirits coming off their biggest win in club history. If the Five Stripes can hold off their early momentum, their relentless possession and passing style could wear their opponents down and open up space in the second half.
Every moment is crucial for Atlanta United as they fight for their place in MLS Cup. Make sure you’re there to witness every moment as they try to retain their throne as MLS Cup champions. 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.