Tools to the Match

Tools to the Match: How Atlanta United begins road trip with victory in Washington D.C. 


Atlanta United is hitting the road for two matches this week. The first one is Wednesday night at Audi Field when it takes on D.C. United. This will be the second meeting between the two sides this season, with D.C. winning the first contest 3-2 in Atlanta. Coming off a draw at home to Houston Dynamo on the weekend, the 5-Stripes are looking to create some momentum to climb up the Eastern Conference standings. With a victory on Wednesday, Atlanta could move over D.C. in the standings and closer to the playoff line. Let’s take a look at the Tools to the Match presented by Home Depot against D.C. United.

Picking the right moments in attack and defense

The 2-2 draw against Houston this past Saturday gave fans a glimpse into some of the things the team is looking to improve on. There were some more direct passages of play in the attack. The team also found some good moments to trigger its counter pressing, both individually and as a team. One of those individual pressing moments led to the team’s first goal for Daniel Ríos. The team needs to continue to work on those moments and find the right triggers to pressure D.C. United’s defense which has given up 32 goals this season, the second-highest total goals allowed in the Eastern Conference.

Defensively, the team needs to continue to stay switched on for the full 90 minutes. Whether it’s on set pieces, or in transition moments, Atlanta’s backline and defensive midfield need to ensure the team is solid at the back. If the team can be solid defensively, it will have a chance to secure three points on the road.

Control the wings and limit crosses into Christian Benteke

It’s no secret that D.C. United’s strength in the attack starts with top striker Christian Benteke. He scored a hat trick in the first meeting between the two sides and he leads the team with 13 goals scored this season. The team does a good job of featuring Benteke with strong wing play and finding crosses into the striker. Jared Stroud has eight assists this season with Mateusz Klich adding seven on the campaign. Atlanta’s defense, especially the fullbacks or wingbacks, need to be sharp and locked in to help deny service into Benteke. If the 5-Stripes can limit the clear-cut scoring opportunities for D.C., they should be in a good position to secure road points on Wednesday.

Be clinical when scoring chances present themselves on the road

One of the strengths this season for Atlanta United has been creating scoring chances. The team continues to rank top-5 in MLS in terms of expected goals (34.9 xG). Thiago Almada created three chances and ranks eighth in MLS in key passes entering Wednesday’s match with 42 key passes. One thing that Atlanta has continued to work on is being clinical in front of goal. That will be especially important on the road these next two matches. If the team can capitalize on mistakes or force D.C. United into mistakes in their defensive third, the team has the quality in the attack to score goals. Xande Silva scored in two consecutive matches, while Ríos also netted a goal last time out. Thiago Almada is only a couple of assists away from tying the club’s all-time MLS assist record. If the attack can finish opportunities, especially early in the match, that could go a long way to helping the team earn points at Audi Field on Wednesday night.

Fans can tune in on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV Wednesday night at 7:30 pm ET when the action kicks off at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. 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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