Tools to the Match

Tools to the Match: How Atlanta United collects another home victory vs. Chicago Fire on Sunday 


Atlanta United returns to action at Mercedes-Benz Stadium this Sunday afternoon when it welcomes the Chicago Fire FC. Coming off a tough road loss last week, the 5-Stripes are looking to pick up another three points at home. So far this year, Atlanta is 2-0-0 in home matches. Historically, Atlanta is 6-0-0 in home matches against the Fire coming into this weekend’s matchup. Chicago made some big investments in the offseason and is coming off a 1-1 draw at New England last weekend. The international call-ups have returned to the team and Atlanta hopes that the team can recapture the momentum from winning at home in the first few weeks of the season. Let’s take a look at the Tools to the Match presented by the Home Depot against Chicago Fire FC. 

Spread the pitch wide and find runners in the box with crosses

Mercedes-Benz Stadium is known for being one of the biggest pitches in the league in terms of playing dimensions. It makes it difficult for opposing teams to stay compact and close down spaces for 90 minutes. One of Atlanta’s biggest strengths this season has been the wide play and the accuracy on crosses from those areas. Coming into the weekend, Atlanta ranks second in MLS in Crossing Accuracy at 43.3%. Only FC Cincinnati, last year’s Supporters’ Shield winner, ranks higher. 

Especially Atlanta’s right side, with right back Brooks Lennon and right winger Saba Lobjanidze, has shown real quality with crossing through the first four matches. They are connecting on 53.5% of crosses from the right side. If Atlanta can spread Chicago out and create multiple scoring opportunities from the flanks, it will have a good chance at converting those and collecting another three points at home.  

Contain Chicago’s star striker who is rounding into form

Among the many offseason signings for Chicago, none were bigger than bringing in a new No. 9 up top in Hugo Cuypers. The 27-year-old Belgian striker was prolific in his home country, scoring 64 goals and adding 25 assists in 126 matches played over the past three seasons. He’s now rounding into form in MLS, scoring in each of the past two matches for Chicago. Cuypers is a striker that has mobility, but he does most of his damage inside the box. Atlanta’s backline will have to be aware of him at all times on Sunday. 

Brian Gutierrez and Fabian Herbers are two players who have shown the ability to assist Cuypers in the attack. Herbers has two goals and two assists, while Gutierrez has two goals and one assist through five matches. The Fire also feature Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri in midfield, who scored for his country during the international break off a free kick. He has the ability to convert those set pieces in and around box. Atlanta’s midfield will need to contain those three to cut off the supply to Cuypers. If the 5-Stripes control midfield, they should be in good shape to pick up a win. 

Put Chicago under pressure from the start of the match

Having never lost to Chicago at home in MLS action, the 5-Stripes need to come out and put Chicago under pressure from the opening minutes. Atlanta accomplished that feat in its last home match against Orlando, when Saba Lobjanidze scored in the 11th minute and the 5-Stripes cruised to a 2-0 victory. Scoring that first goal, especially if it comes in the opening 15 minutes, always provides a boost to the entire team and the crowd at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. With players back from international duty, head coach Gonzalo Pineda should have his first-choice attacking group available for selection once again. In the previous six home MLS matches against Chicago, Atlanta has scored the first goal in all six of those matches and scored in the opening 15 minutes in five of those six outings. All six have been victories. Scoring early and often on Sunday afternoon should put the 5-Stripes in the driver’s seat for three points.

Fans can tune in on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV, FOX and FOX Deportes on Sunday afternoon at 3:30pm ET when the action kicks off at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. To hear the action on radio, tune into Sports Radio 92.9 The Game or SiriusXM FC Channel 157 (English) or La Mejor – AM 1600 (Spanish).



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