Atlanta United looks to close out its home regular season schedule in style when the 5-Stripes host Toronto FC on Saturday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. After securing a 2-1 win against Inter Miami CF last time out, Atlanta are closing in on an Eastern Conference playoff berth. Another victory on Saturday would put Atlanta United on the brink of securing a playoff spot. Thanks to favorable results across the league on Wednesday night, Atlanta controls its own destiny for a home playoff match. If the 5-Stripes win each of their last three matches, they will finish in the top-4 in the Eastern Conference. But first things first, let’s take a look at Saturday’s Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot.
Keep feeding Luiz Araújo
The Brazilian forward is coming into his own since his move from Ligue 1 side OSC Lille. Araújo scored a goal and had an assist in the 2-1 come-from-behind victory against Miami in midweek. He scored the opening goal last time out against Toronto, finishing off a beautiful team move down the left flank. The Brazilian has scored three goals and contributed four assists in just 12 matches played. The 5-Stripes need to continue to feed Araújo the ball and provide him space and runners so he can continue to create opportunities. His goal against Miami came from a direct free kick, where he kicked it under the jumping wall to the surprise of Miami’s goalkeeper. Araújo became just the fourth Atlanta United player to score a direct free kick in MLS play in the club’s history.
Keep eyes on Pozuelo and Altidore
Despite having already been eliminated from the playoffs, Toronto FC have several top quality players in their lineup that can hurt you if you give them the opportunity. Last season’s MLS MVP, Alejandro Pozuelo is a player who has found success against Atlanta in the past. He started Toronto’s last match, a 2-2 draw with Philadelphia, and is finding his form. Jozy Altidore has scored in each of Toronto’s last two matches and will try to extend that scoring run on Saturday. Atlanta’s defense, which ranks eighth in MLS in goals conceded (35), will need to keep an eye on both of these attacking players on Saturday night. Containing Pozuelo’s ability to create in midfield and limiting Altidore’s scoring chances will be a big key in Atlanta securing its 10th clean sheet of the MLS season.
Beat Toronto Off the Dribble
It’s no secret that Atlanta United has several players that can beat defenders consistently off the dribble. In fact, Atlanta United ranks first in MLS with a dribble success rate of 62.7% and second in total successful dribbles with 415. Between Marcelino Moreno, Ezequiel Barco and Araújo, Atlanta’s attack features three of the best dribblers at pace in the league. Their speed and skill can lead to free kick opportunities, as it did on Wednesday night vs. Miami. Atlanta needs to continue to create scoring chances off the dribble. Moreno produced the second goal in Toronto off the dribble just a couple weeks ago. As Atlanta makes its playoff push, creating and finishing those scoring chances becomes critical down the stretch.