Match Preview: Atlanta United vs. Columbus Crew Saturday, May 28 2022

Atlanta United returns to Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday when it takes on Columbus Crew. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. ET.

Saturday is the team’s final match before the FIFA international window. The team won’t play its next MLS match until June 19 when it hosts Inter Miami. So, the team is eager to pick up three points and head into the break on a good note.

“Every time we play at home, we want to get three points,” defender Brooks Lennon said. “We’re coming off a good result in Nashville, getting that draw late in the game. So, all focus is getting three points at home going into the break and hopefully we can put ourselves in a good spot in the table.”

Last week, Atlanta United earned a hard-fought point on the road in Nashville. The club made its second trip to GEODIS Park in 10 days, endured a nearly three-hour long lightning delay, and came up with a goal from Dom Dwyer in the 88th minute to steal a point on the road.

It was a strong response, one that shows the team’s resiliency and ability to come back late in games. Earlier this season, Atlanta United came-from-behind to draw CF Montréal 3-3 and scored late, second-half goals to beat Charlotte FC at home 2-1 and D.C. United on the road 1-0.

On Thursday, head coach Gonzalo Pineda said Josef Martínez has been fully reintegrated to the team. Martínez returned to training last week for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic surgery to clean out some debris in his knee. Pineda said that the striker will be evaluated on Friday before determining whether Martínez will make the matchday roster.

The 5-Stripes haven’t lost at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 13 matches. After a week of intense preparation, the team will be looking to defend their home field on Saturday against a familiar Eastern Conference opponent.

"It’s a massively important game for us,” Pineda said. “We’re at home... it’s a great opportunity. I’m very happy with the response of the players. Throughout the week, they’ve been very serious, very intense, working very hard. Also, learning the little details that can help us achieve things.”

Martinez-CLB-5.27.22

The Crew

Columbus Crew is an Eastern Conference club based in Ohio. Columbus Crew is one of the league’s 10 charter clubs and is a successful franchise that has won several trophies. Columbus won the Supporters’ Shield three times (2004, 2008, 2009), the Campeones Cup (2021) and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (2002). The club has also won the MLS Cup two times, most recently in 2020. The club’s main colors are gold, black and white.

The team plays its home matches at Lower.com Field, a soccer-specific venue where Atlanta United will travel when it faces Columbus Crew later this season. Up until July 2021, Columbus played its home matches at Columbus Crew Stadium, now called Historic Crew Stadium, which was the first MLS stadium built specifically for soccer.

The club has had eight managers in its 26-year history. Their current head coach is Caleb Porter, a former American professional who played collegiately at Indiana University. Porter is a successful American soccer coach with previous stints in MLS. During his time with the Portland Timbers, he led the club to an MLS Cup, Cascadia Cup and won MLS Coach of the Year in 2013.

A Split History

Atlanta United and Columbus Crew have met 10 times in MLS and the series is split evenly with each team winning five times. They met twice last season, within a span of about two weeks, and the series remained true to form with each team getting a win.

In the last meeting on August 7, 2021, Atlanta United beat Columbus 3-2 at Lower.com Field. It was a much-needed result after the team had gone winless in its previous three matches and ignited a four-match winning streak under interim head coach Rob Valentino.

Valentino-CLB-2021

That win last August also ended Atlanta’s five-match losing streak against the Crew, the longest against a single opponent in Atlanta’s MLS history. Before that run, Atlanta was unbeaten in its first five meetings with the Crew, but that run included a penalty shootout loss in the 2017 playoffs.

"We try to be good on the ball, try to create enough chances and control the tempo of the game and put the tempo that we want, which is a very intense tempo,” Pineda said. “Try to move the ball faster, two touches, try to move the ball side to side, try to balance them quickly and try to get in good areas to create chances. So that’s the main idea. After that, we’ll try to take care of their tendencies offensively.”

Hot And Cold

This season, the Crew got off to a fast start, but has since cooled down. Entering Saturday’s match, Columbus sits toward of the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings in 12th place with 13 points in the table.  

Columbus has won only once in its last nine MLS matches and enters Saturday’s match on a two-match losing streak, getting shut out by New York City FC and LAFC. The Crew also haven’t won any of their six away matches this season and have managed just one win in their last 15 away from home, following the 1-0 win at Atlanta in late July 2021.

On the other side, Atlanta United is currently hanging in that middle section of the Eastern Conference table. The club enters Saturday’s match in eighth place with 16 points. But the standings are extremely tight. Atlanta United sits just four points below the clubs currently in third and fourth place (CF Montréal and New York Red Bulls).

Atlanta United has been producing and scoring goals. In the past four matches, including all competitions, Atlanta United has scored 10 goals. Meanwhile, Columbus is in a scoring drought. The Crew’s last loss, to LAFC, was the sixth time they’ve failed to score in their last eight matches.

Key 2022 Stats and League Ranking
Atlanta United
Columbus Crew
Possession
57%
53%
Passing Percentage
85.2% (1st)
82.5% (9th)
Duel Percentage
52.3% (8th)
52.1% (10th)
Goals
19
14

Players To Watch

Thiago Almada – The attacking midfielder has had an amazing run as of late. He’s been involved in five of Atlanta United’s last six goals (two goals, three assists). In the past two matches, he's scored one goal and assisted another, joining Miguel Almirón and Ezequiel Barco as just the third player in Atlanta United history to do so. The designated player, in just 10 MLS matches played , is also getting noticed around the league. He made the MLS Team of the Week for the second consecutive time on Monday.

Thiago-CLB-5.27.22

Lucas Zelarayán – The 29-year-old Armenian international is having a strong season for the Crew. He leads the team in goals scored (4) and also has three assists on the season. He was voted the MLS Player of the Month for March after Columbus got off to an unbeaten 2-0-2 start. He likes to create out of the midfield, so it’ll be important for Atlanta United to limit his touches.

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