Atlanta United begins a crucial week at home on Wednesday when they host Inter Miami CF at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. After picking up a 1-1 draw vs. NYCFC last time out, the 5-Stripes are looking for three points at home as the race for the playoff spots in the Eastern Conference heats up. Miami has played itself back into the mix with two consecutive victories last week and they now only sit five points behind Atlanta in the standings. The 5-Stripes have a game in hand and are tied with New York Red Bulls and CF Montréal in the Eastern Conference standings entering Wednesday’s contest. Let’s take a look at the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot.
Take Advantage of Transition Chances
Since the middle of July, Atlanta United has been one of the better attacking sides in MLS. One of the reasons is the speed that Atlanta can bring on its attack. One of the staples of the 5-Stripes in the early years was the quick transition from defense to attack. That has returned since July. Atlanta leads MLS in the number of total fast breaks according to Opta since mid-July. The team also ranks in the top-10 in Chances Created in that same time period, as head coach Gonzalo Pineda continues to get his team to play a fast and attacking brand of soccer. The return of Ezequiel Barco should only help Atlanta create more scoring opportunities on Wednesday night against Miami. Taking advantage of those transition moments and converting the scoring chances will be one of the keys to the match.
Strikeout the Higuain Brothers
Inter Miami CF is coming into Wednesday’s match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium full of confidence. Miami has registered two consecutive victories and outscored their opponents 8-1 in those two matches. This current two-match win streak followed a stretch of six consecutive losses which had them clinging to their playoff hopes. They will need a victory on Wednesday to keep those hopes alive. The two main stars of the last two matches have been the Argentine Higuian brothers, Federico and Gonzalo. Federico Higuain scored in both matches, while Gonzalo tallied a goal and four assists over the last two wins. Gonzalo Higuain leads the team with 11 goals and nine assists on the year. Atlanta’s defense, which ranks sixth in MLS for fewest goals conceded (34) will need to keep an eye on both of them in order to secure the victory on Wednesday night.
Close Out Matches
Atlanta United has done a good job this season of capitalizing on scoring opportunities early and taking leads. The 5-Stripes need to close out those matches now in order to secure a playoff spot. Last week’s 1-1 draw with NYCFC was another reminder that closing out matches, especially at home, is crucial this time of year. With the playoff spots coming down to the final two weeks of the regular season, Atlanta United’s depth could play a big role down the stretch. Head Coach Gonzalo Pineda has a relatively healthy squad to pick from and knows that when he has to turn to the bench, he has quality players to choose from. During the 2021 MLS season, 12 different Atlanta United players have found the back of the net.