Atlanta United faces a quick turnaround as its back in action at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Wednesday night against Colorado Rapids. Coming off a defeat to Charlotte FC on the weekend, Atlanta will look to rebound in a big way against the Western Conference foe. The Five Stripes still find themselves in fourth place in the standings ahead of Wednesday’s action. Colorado is also coming off a home defeat as they lost to Philadelphia Union on the weekend. The Rapids enter this Wednesday’s match in 10th place in the West with 12 points from 12 matches played. Let’s take a closer look at the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot.
Create more clear-cut opportunities in the final third
Atlanta United is the only team to have scored at least one goal in every MLS match this season. But in each of the past three matches, that tally has stopped at one goal each. One of the things that Atlanta was doing really well in the beginning of the season, and was a point of emphasis in the offseason, was to create more clear-cut opportunities. The team still ranks tied for seventh in “Big Chances Created” according to Opta with 17, but over the last four matches they have only created five.
One of the key players to help create those clear-cut scoring opportunities is MVP candidate Thiago Almada. The Argentine added his seventh assist to his tally this past weekend. He ranks first in MLS in total chances created (33) and second in big chances created (10). Atlanta needs to have willing runners and a better attacking flow in order to keep three points at home this Wednesday.
Disrupt Colorado’s counter attacks
Colorado is a team that likes to give up possession and find success through a tough defense and counter attacking offensive style. Goalkeeper William Yarbrough ranks tied for sixth in MLS with four clean sheets on the season. His 39 total saves are also the fifth-highest in the league coming into Wednesday night’s match. Atlanta’s attack will once again have to solve the puzzle of a deep lying team at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
But the Five Stripes defense needs to be aware of the quick counter attacking ability of Colorado. Diego Rubio is a proven goal-scorer in this league and the Rapids added former LA Galaxy DP Kevin Cabral to their squad. With two goals this season, Cabral has already eclipsed his season total from last year with the Galaxy (1 goal in 33 games played). Atlanta’s defense will need to stay alert at all times to not fall into the counter attacking trap the Rapids will most likely set.
Be ruthless in front of goal and regain momentum
Atlanta needs to do a better job, especially early in games, of finding that ruthlessness in front of goal. Against Charlotte, the team created a few good opportunities early in the match, however wasn’t able to convert which kept Charlotte in the game. The attack could be boosted by the return to the starting lineup of Giorgos Giakoumakis. The Greek international has scored a goal in each of his first five starts in MLS and has proven that he doesn’t need many opportunities typically to score. His five goals scored have come on eight shots on target.
Starting off strong and gaining some early momentum could turnaround the team’s fortunes in a heartbeat. Atlanta is 4-0-2 when it scores the first goal this season and 4-0-0 when leading at halftime. Another early goal on Wednesday would go a long way to earning three points.
Fans can tune in nationally on MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app on Wednesday night at 7:30pm ET when the action kicks off at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. To hear the action on radio, tune into Sports Radio 92.9 The Game (English) or La Mejor – AM 1600 (Spanish).