Tools to the Match

Tools to the Match: How Atlanta starts the season with back-to-back wins 


After a magical opening night in front of 67,538 supporters at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta United is back in action on Saturday when it welcomes Toronto FC. It will be the first Eastern Conference matchup for the 5-Stripes and against a familiar foe. The MLS Regular Season series stands even with a 4-4-4 (W-L-T) mark, while Toronto edged the only postseason match, 2-1 in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. But this is a new year and Atlanta is looking to start the season with back-to-back wins for just the second time in franchise history. Let’s take a closer look at the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot against Toronto FC.

Taking Full Advantage of Possession Superiority

Gonzalo Pineda and his staff fully believe that having higher possession numbers can lead to more attacking chances and more opportunities to score goals. He noted during this week’s media availability that dominating possession is not something to be taken for granted. In Pineda’s 48 regular season games as head coach of Atlanta United, the team has held the possession advantage on 42 occasions. But possession advantage doesn’t always equate to an advantage on the scoreboard. So, one of the areas of focus this week has been to create better attacking patterns and creating more space for the team’s playmakers, specifically Thiago Almada and Luiz Araujo. Both of them combined for 15 shots in the season opener.

Several of those shots came from outside the box. Coach Pineda and his staff have continued to send the message to the players to get into the PAZ (primary assist zones) and create higher quality scoring chances.

Don’t Let Forza Toronto Run Wild

During last season’s summer transfer window, Toronto FC made several splash signings, including bringing in Italian national team caliber attackers in Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi. The duo combined for 14 goals and five assists in the second half of the season. Bernardeschi converted a penalty last weekend to get off the scoring mark right away. Insigne’s inclusion this weekend will depend on his recovery after suffering a leg injury in the opener.

Atlanta’s backline did a good job, especially in the second half, to smother San Jose’s attack and not allow the Quakes the time and freedom on the ball. The 5-Stripes won 41 duels in the second half alone, which was the 2nd highest total among MLS teams in a second half last weekend. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan came up with some timely saves and Miles Robinson used his speed to shut down the San Jose attack in the second half. Atlanta’s defense will need to be alert at all times to keep Toronto’s attack off the scoresheet.

Continue to Make Mercedes-Benz Stadium a Fortress

With three of the first four matches this season coming at home, Atlanta United has a great opportunity to jump out to an early start. Mercedes-Benz Stadium features the largest and one of the rowdiest crowds in the league. And the supporters provide the team a lift when they need it the most, as was seen last Saturday in stoppage time when Atlanta scored two goals to turnaround a one-goal deficit.

Speaking of two goals scored, that’s been a measuring stick for a lot of Atlanta United’s success at home in club history. Since 2017, Atlanta owns a home record of 49-1-9 (W-L-T) when scoring two or more goals at home. If Atlanta can score early and often, you can almost guarantee to add another victory to that tally.

Fans can tune in nationally on MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app on Saturday night at 7:30pm ET when the action kicks off at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. To hear the action on radio, tune into STAR 94 or La Mejor – AM 1600 (Spanish).