Atlanta United is back at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday afternoon after securing a hard-fought road point last time out at Columbus. The 5-Stripes welcome D.C. United on Sunday and need to take care of home field advantage in order to keep pace in the playoff race. With just four home matches remaining this season, Atlanta needs to take all three points in each one of those in order to climb up the standings. D.C. United sits in 14th place in the Eastern Conference coming into this weekend. Let’s take a look at the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot against D.C. United.
Score early and often to not give D.C. any hope
Atlanta needs to come out aggressive from the opening whistle and put D.C. United under pressure. Sunday’s opponents have lost three of their last four and have conceded eight goals in those four matches. If the 5-Stripes can put them under pressure early, create quality chances and convert them in the opening 15-20 minutes, they will not allow D.C. United to find its rhythm. Atlanta has scored a goal in the first 20 minutes in eight different matches this season and the team’s record in those eight matches is 4-1-3 (W-L-T).
A lot of those created chances have come from Brooks Lennon and Thiago Almada. Both rank among the top-10 players in MLS in terms of created chances per match. Lennon enters this week ranked fourth at 2.82 chances created per match, while Almada is sixth with 2.71. If both of them can create enough quality chances on Sunday, Atlanta will keep the three points at home.
New coach, new player for D.C. United
Wayne Rooney, who enjoyed a tremendous playing career, including a stint at D.C. United a couple of seasons ago, is the new head coach. He took over on July 12 with his first match on July 31. He’s made a couple of new signings since joining the club as coach with the biggest one potentially joining the team this weekend for the first time.
Belgian international forward Christian Benteke was announced as D.C. United’s newest Designated Player on Aug. 5. He joins the club after spending the last 10 years in English Premier League. D.C. United hopes that he will be a good strike partner for Taxi Fountas who is the team’s leading goal scorer with 11 goals this season. Atlanta’s defense will need to key on Fountas and Benteke and not give them clear sights on goal.
Continue to stay dangerous on attacking set pieces
Last weekend against Columbus, Atlanta created several scoring opportunities on set pieces, especially on corner kicks. Juanjo Purata scored the equalizer from a great delivery on a corner kick from Edwin Mosquera. Santiago Sosa looked to have his second goal of the match off an Almada corner kick in the first half but was called back for minimal contact in the box. The team works on attacking and defending set pieces throughout the week in training. They will look to identify weaknesses in D.C. United’s defending and hopefully exploit those for more scoring opportunities this weekend.
Fans can tune-in nationally on Univision, TUDN and Twitter on Sunday afternoon as Atlanta United hosts D.C. United at 4:00 p.m. ET. Click here to learn all the ways to watch, listen and live stream the match.