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Atlanta United returns home for an Eastern Conference matchup with Toronto FC. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET. 

Atlanta United will go into the matchup without one of its biggest stars. On Wednesday, the club announced that striker Josef Martínez has been suspended for conduct detrimental to the team. The suspension will last one week.  

Without Martínez available, Atlanta United will rely on attacking options such as Thiago Almada, who leads the team in assists on the season (10) and Ronaldo Cisneros, the team’s second-leading scorer (7). Andrew Gutman, the defender who’s scored three goals in the club’s last seven matches, could also be a factor in the attack on Saturday. 

"The biggest thing for us is we’re back home this weekend,” Gutman said on Thursday. “We’re playing a good Toronto team, but we’re playing in front of our home fans, we’re playing on our home pitch.” 

Saturday is also the club’s Unite & Conquer Cancer match. Throughout matchday, the club will be making efforts to raise awareness for pediatric cancer, including the Honorary Captain and Golden Spike hitter. 

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A Point of Separation 

Both teams enter Saturday’s matchup below the playoff line. Atlanta United is 11th in the table with 33 points (8-12-9). Toronto FC sits just one spot above in 10th place with 34 points (9-14-7). 

The playoff picture is crystallizing a little more each and every week, and neither Atlanta United nor Toronto FC have been eliminated from qualification. However, with just four weeks remaining until Decision Day, the task ahead to qualify is massive. Three points on Saturday could make a great deal of difference for either side's hopes of staying in the hunt for a playoff spot. 

“We have faced enormous challenges throughout the season, and we’re still here with possibilities to make the playoffs,” Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda said. “We will try to fight until the end for that.”

Canada Adds To Its Finest 

Toronto FC is an Eastern Conference opponent based in Canada. It was the first Canadian team in MLS, followed by CF Montréal and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The club was founded in 2006 and entered league play in 2007.  

The Reds play their home matches at BMO Field, the first soccer-specific stadium in Canada with a field made of natural grass, where the previous matchup took place. The club’s main colors are red, black and gray. In its history, Toronto has had 12 head coaches and is currently managed by three-time MLS Coach of the Year, Bob Bradley. 

This season, the team made two key additions to improve its stock. Midfielder Lorenzo Insigne and forward Federico Bernardeschi have made a drastic impact on the team’s attack. Since joining the club during the summer transfer window, the attackers have combined for 13 goals and five assists in just nine MLS appearances. 

“Their attack is amazing,” Gutman said. “They brought in a couple of players and it’s completely changed the dynamic of their attack.”

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The Mercedes-Benz Stadium Edge 

Atlanta United and Toronto FC have met 12 times in the series history, and Toronto owns the series by two wins (5-3-4). Atlanta United went unbeaten in three matches against Toronto in 2021 and won at BMO Field for the first-time ever on October 16, 2021. 

The last time the teams met was earlier this season on June 25. Atlanta United kicked off a three-match road trip with a match north of the border. Toronto opened the scoring, but Atlanta United answered with a goal in the 57th minute from Luiz Araújo. However, Toronto FC scored the go-ahead goal to collect the three points at home. 

As Gutman said, the 5-Stripes have one area of advantage on Saturday: home field. In five matches, Atlanta United remains unbeaten against Toronto FC in regular season matches played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. So, the 5-Stripes will be feeding off the energy of playing in front of a home crowd. 

“I’ve said it all season, whether it’s good or bad, we play 10-20 percent better and faster when we’re at home,” Gutman said. “So, if we can go out there this weekend and get a big result, it gives us the confidence to go into these next few games thinking like, ‘Oh, we can do this. We just have to maintain this level.’”

Key 2022 Stats and League Ranking
Atlanta United
Toronto FC
Possession
58.2% (1st)
51.6% (12th)
Shots per 90 minutes
15.7 (1st)
11 (27th)
Duel Percentage
52% (6th)
52.1% (5th)
Interceptions
242 (23rd)
304 (6th)

Players To Watch 

Thiago Almada – The midfielder has been an exciting playmaker for the team this season, leading Atlanta United in assists (10). Not only has Almada been a successful creator in MLS, his play is also gaining international attention. Last weekend, the Argentina men’s national team announced its preliminary list of call ups for the upcoming FIFA international window. Almada was on the list, along with international soccer stars Lionel Messi and Angel di María.

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Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi– Atlanta United’s backline will certainly need to keep an eye on this duo. The Italians, who joined the squad this summer, have rejuvenated Toronto’s attack. Combined, they’ve scored 13 goals in nine appearances. Both found the net in the team’s last match against CF Montréal, which marked the fourth time the pair has scored in the same MLS match. 

Other Tidbits

  • Prior to kickoff, Atlanta United will be wearing the MLS Kick Childhood Cancer pre-match tops. Learn more about the story here.
  • Atlanta United will be wearing the BLVCK Kit on Saturday.