Tools to the Match: How 5-Stripes collect three points in front of full house against Seattle Sounders

Atlanta United returns home after two consecutive road matches this weekend. The 5-Stripes face Seattle Sounders FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The match marks the final full-venue match of the regular season. Atlanta enters the weekend four points below the playoff line, while Seattle sits in sixth place in the Western Conference, just one point above the playoff line. Gonzalo Pineda faces his former team and mentor Brian Schmetzer for the first time. Let’s take a look at the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot against Seattle Sounders FC.

Build on the clean sheet from last weekend

Atlanta’s defense produced its first clean sheet since June 19 in the 0-0 draw last weekend at Chicago. Coach Pineda praised the team’s togetherness and willingness to fight for every ball down the stretch to secure the valuable road point. Now the team needs to use that momentum and look to take three points at home vs. Seattle this weekend. Juanjo Purata earned a spot on the MLS Team of the Week bench for his contributions defensively. Santiago Sosa made his return to the starting lineup and was disrupting Chicago’s attacks time and time again.

Now the team needs to carry that momentum forward against a tough Seattle side. The 5-Stripes have never beaten Seattle in four previous meetings. Three of those meetings have ended in draws. With a large crowd backing the team on Saturday, Atlanta needs to come out early and put pressure on Seattle’s defense. Atlanta’s record when scoring first is 6-2-2, while the team has managed three draws when conceding first. The first goal will be critical in this match on Saturday.

Containing Seattle’s balanced attack

The Sounders are one of the most veteran teams in MLS. The core of the team has been together for a few seasons now. They became the first MLS team to win the Concacaf Champions League earlier this year. But in league play, the Sounders are in a similar position to Atlanta United, climbing just above the playoff line thanks to a 1-0 midweek victory vs. FC Dallas. They feature a balanced attack with Jordan Morris leading the team in scoring with six goals. Raul Ruidiaz has five goals and is making his way back from an injury. Captain Nicolas Lodeiro has contributed five goals and a team-high six assists, while USMNT midfielder Cristian Roldan has five assists and three goals on the season. Atlanta’s defense will need to be switched on from the start and not allow Lodeiro and Roldan to control the midfield. Last weekend against Chicago, Sosa and Matheus Rossetto provided a good midfield balance for Atlanta United. They will look to do the same this weekend.

Convert chances that you create

Atlanta United is creating shooting opportunities. The team leads the league in total shots and ranks third in MLS in shots on target coming into this weekend. According to fbref.com, it leads the league in shot creating actions (actions like passes, dribbles or fouls drawn that lead to a shot attempt), but only ranks tied for 19th in MLS in goal creating actions (the same actions that lead to goals). In order to keep the three points at home this weekend against Seattle, Atlanta needs to convert the shooting attempts that it typically creates. While the team ranks near the top in total chances created, the team is in the middle of the league with only 33 Big Chances Created, opportunities with a higher percentage chance of scoring.

Fans can tune-in nationally on ABC / ESPN Deportes on Saturday afternoon as Atlanta United hosts Seattle Sounders at 3 p.m. ET. Click here to learn all the ways to watch, listen and live stream Saturday's match.