Tools to the Match

Tools to the Match: How 5-Stripes secure a home victory against Houston Dynamo 


Following a two-week international break, Atlanta United is back at home this weekend when it hosts Houston Dynamo at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Interim head coach Rob Valentino will begin his second stint in charge of the 5-Stripes against a team that Atlanta doesn’t see that often. There have only been three previous meetings between the two sides, with the last one coming in July 2019. Atlanta owns a 2-1-0 (W-L-T) all-time record in the series and the two victories have come at home with Atlanta outscoring the visitors 9-1 in those matches. This season, Houston sits in seventh place in the Western Conference ahead of this weekend’s matchup. Let’s take a look at the Tools to the Match presented by Home Depot against Houston Dynamo.

New Voice, New Beginnings

Rob Valentino, who was 4-2-2 in his previous interim stint in 2021, takes over and hopes to instill some new confidence into the team. The 5-Stripes are looking ahead to the second half of the season following this short break. With several road matches on the horizon, making sure the team earns three points at home on Saturday is imperative.

The team continues to rank high in several offensive categories. They have to find a way to convert more of the chances they have been creating. One of the areas they can improve in the second half is on set pieces. Atlanta has only scored three goals off set pieces, all penalties, in the first half of the campaign. With the quality of delivery that Atlanta has on the team, it’s only a matter of time before goals start coming off free kicks and corner kicks. An early set piece goal on Saturday night could be a good tone setter for the 5-Stripes and lead to a positive result at home against Houston.

Be prepared for any adjustments or tweaks Houston makes

With major international tournaments such as UEFA Euro 2024 and Copa América 2024 set to begin in the next week, MLS teams will need to adjust their lineups or approaches across the board. Houston will be without one of their starting midfielders in Coco Carrasquilla, while Atlanta will miss some of its starters as well.

The 5-Stripes will need to be alert to any tweaks or adjustments that Houston’s coach Ben Olsen comes up with before Saturday. One of the players Olsen can count on is Mexican midfielder Hector Herrera. The former Atlético Madrid player had an outstanding season a year ago with 17 assists and four goals. He is off to a slower start this year, but his quality on the ball and his vision are things that Atlanta needs to be aware of.

Houston’s attack is led by Ibrahim Aliyu who has scored a team-high four goals. Sebastian Kowalczyk (three goals) and Amine Bassi (two goals, three assists) are an attacking trio that Atlanta’s defense will need to keep a close eye on. If Atlanta can stifle Houston’s attack and cut off as many passes in the middle of the field, they will have a good opportunity to earn three home points.

Opportunity for players to step up and recapture some of the early season momentum

After a physically and mentally taxing month of May, the 5-Stripes now have an opportunity to start fresh and rebuild some momentum in their season. Whether it's tactical tweaks from the coaching staff or a shift in mentality from the players, something must change for Atlanta to reverse these results. The team still features a lot of quality and those players will have to step up in the absence of others during these summer months.

Thiago Almada scored a goal in his last MLS match against Charlotte and had an outstanding performance in the match before that against Inter Miami. If the Argentine can raise his game to another level, he has the quality to take over matches. Xande Silva scored against Charlotte as well and showed last season that he has the quality to make things happen on the wing. If the 5-Stripes can get the best out of their best players on Saturday night, they will be in good position to earn three points against Houston.

Fans can tune in on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV Saturday night at 7:30 pm ET when the action kicks off at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. To hear the action on radio, tune into Sports Radio 92.9 The Game (English) or La Mejor – AM 1600 (Spanish).

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