Coming off a two week break, Atlanta United is back in action on the road at Toronto FC on Saturday night. With six matches left to play in the regular season, the 5-Stripes currently sit just one point below the playoff line. A victory on Saturday could push them above the line and be the springboard to a strong run to close out the season. Toronto sits in 13th place in the Eastern Conference coming into Saturday. This will be the second meeting this season between the two sides after Atlanta picked up a 1-0 win at home vs. Toronto on Aug. 18th. The two sides will meet one more time on Oct. 30 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Let’s take a look at the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot.
Take Shots and Risks in Attack
Atlanta United is looking to create momentum as we head down the final stretch of the regular season. A victory at BMO Field on Saturday, a venue where the 5-Stripes have never won before, would provide momentum heading into a three-match homestand that starts next week. Road matches are difficult in MLS, and the 5-Stripes are experiencing that this season with a 2-6-6 record currently. Atlanta United has taken 158 total shots in those 14 road matches, compared to 215 total shots in the 14 home matches. It will be important for Atlanta to find shooting opportunities and take risks in the attack to secure three points in Toronto. The team has scored 16 goals on the road, which is the fifth-highest road goal total in the Eastern Conference heading into this weekend.
Keep close tabs on Yeferson Soteldo
Yeferson Soteldo has made an impact for Toronto FC since his arrival. He leads the team this year with 10 assists and has scored three goals. The Venezuelan winger leads Toronto in several other offensive categories like total shots (43), shots on target (16) and chances created (43). He has the speed and creativity to beat defenders off the dribble, or cut inside and create dangerous scoring opportunities through the middle. Toronto also features some veteran players like Michael Bradley and Omar Gonzalez who are playing significant minutes. Atlanta will need to keep an eye on Soteldo and make sure to limit Bradley’s influence on the match in order to pick up three points.
Attack on the Flanks and Score First
Atlanta’s wing play has been one of the stronger phases of the 5-Stripes’ attack this season. The team ranks third in crossing accuracy this season at 24.7%. Brooks Lennon continues to create opportunities down the right side, as he enters this week 5th in MLS with 71 created chances. Combine that crossing ability with the dribbling skills of Luiz Araujo, Ezequiel Barco and Marcelino Moreno, Atlanta has several players who can create havoc on the flanks.
Scoring first is a critical part to Atlanta’s success this season. All 10 of the 5-Stripes victories this year have come after scoring the first goal in a match. Grabbing that opening goal at Toronto on Saturday would be a massive boost for the squad.