Tools to the Match

Tools to the Match: How Atlanta United closes out the MLS season on a high note

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We have reached the final match of the 2022 MLS season. Atlanta United welcomes New York City FC to Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The 5-Stripes were eliminated from playoff contention following last weekend’s loss at New England, while NYCFC is fighting to keep third place in the Eastern Conference table. Sunday’s match will give the squad a chance to end the season on a winning note before heading into the offseason. Let’s take a look at the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot against New York City FC.

Take advantage of final chance to show out

Despite being eliminated from playoff contention, Sunday’s match provides a final chance for the players to showcase their talents and say thanks to the 17s for their tremendous support throughout this entire season. Atlanta’s home record has been good this season at 8-3-5 (W-L-T).

Atlanta’s attack continues to be ranked among the league leaders in shots (528 – 1st), shots on target (182 – 2nd) and key passes (378 – 1st). If the 5-Stripes can put themselves in those primary assist zones and convert, then they will have a good chance at picking up three points in the season finale.

Stop NYCFC’s momentum

NYCFC comes into Sunday’s match on the back of three consecutive victories. Two of those came in MLS action, including beating their city rivals New York Red Bulls. The third victory came in the 2022 Campeones Cup against Liga MX side Atlas. The team features a different looking attack after longtime striker Valentin Castellanos was sold to Europe during the last transfer window.

The new-look attack features a variety of quality attackers that can hurt you in different ways. Talles Magno is a young rising star who has come into his own this season. After scoring just two goals last year, the Brazilian has contributed seven goals and nine assists in 2022. Another young winger that has been thriving for NYCFC is Santiago Rodriguez. The Uruguayan leads the team with 13 assists and 61 key passes. Atlanta’s defense, especially on the wings, will be tested on Sunday and needs to limit the effectiveness of NYCFC in order to keep three points at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Play through Thiago Almada and stay focused for the full 90 minutes

Thiago Almada, who is in strong consideration for Newcomer and Young Player of the Year in MLS, has had a good first season for Atlanta United. He’s made 17 goal contributions this season (6 goals, 11 assists), which ranks him fifth all-time among first-year ATL UTD players in MLS. He’s created the most chances on the team and Atlanta’s attack has looked more dangerous when Almada is pulling the strings in midfield.

Another point of emphasis this weekend will be for the team to stay focused for the full 90 minutes. The 5-Stripes have had advantages in possession and chance creation in numerous matches this year, but one or two moments where the team switches off has cost them points. Against a top-four Eastern Conference team like NYCFC, the team needs to be switched on at all times to earn three points.

Fans can tune in locally on Bally Sports Southeast for TV coverage with coverage starting at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday afternoon. To tune in on radio, fans can listen to STAR 94.1 FM (English) or La Mejor Atlanta AM 1600 (Spanish).