Tools to the Match

Tools to the Match: How Atlanta United collects big road points at Chicago this weekend


Atlanta United travels up north to take on Chicago Fire FC to close out a busy week. This will mark the third match in eight days for both sides and the Five Stripes are looking to close out the week strong. Atlanta picked up a 4-0 victory against Colorado in midweek, with four different goal scorers finding the back of the net. Chicago is coming off a 2-1 defeat on the road at Charlotte FC. The Five Stripes sit in fourth place in the table with 21 points, while Chicago enters Saturday’s contest in 13th place. Let’s take a closer look at the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot against Chicago Fire FC.

Build on the momentum you created

Atlanta is looking to build on the momentum the team created in midweek action. The team registered season-highs in total shots (27), shots on goal (10) and expected goals (3.85 xG) in the victory against Colorado. Atlanta got contributions off the bench as well with Giorgos Giakoumakis and Tyler Wolff scoring late in the contest. Defensively, Atlanta didn’t allow Colorado a lot of quality scoring opportunities as the Rapids finished with an 0.29 xG value. The challenge will now be to duplicate that type of dominant performance on the road. Atlanta is looking for just its second win in Chicago this weekend.  

Set pieces could prove to be another key as Atlanta continues to lead the league in that category, adding another tally off a direct free kick on Wednesday. Thiago Almada is now one of only five players in MLS since 2003 to score three or more direct free kick goals. Adding another one to the collection could help the Five Stripes come home with three big road points. 

Cut off the supply to the strikers

Chicago features two quality center forwards on its roster in Kei Kamara and Kacper Przybylko. They have combined for seven of the team’s 14 goals on the season. Both are physical strikers that excel on crosses and set play deliveries. Chicago’s midfield features several quality players that can provide that type of service in Xherdan Shaqiri or Brian Gutierrez. Atlanta’s defense will have to be on top of its game and try and cut off any quality service coming into the striker position. Atlanta will also have to make sure to not giveaway cheap set piece opportunities that could turn into scoring chances for Chicago. Atlanta’s defense will need to command the aerial duels and match Chicago’s physicality on Saturday night. 

Score early and maintain control of the match

Winning on the road in MLS is a difficult task for most teams in the league. Heading into this weekend’s action, only four teams have a road record above .500 across the league. In order for Atlanta to continue to climb the standings, getting points on the road is critical. One way to do that will be to score early. When Atlanta has scored the first goal this season, the team owns a 5-0-2 (W-L-T) record. The team has played six road matches this season. In the three matches the team scored first, Atlanta is undefeated. Finding that first goal on Saturday night will be critical to the team’s success. The Five Stripes lead the league with five goals in the first 15 minutes of matches. Adding another early goal could open up the contest and play into Atlanta’s strengths. 

Fans can tune in nationally on MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app on Saturday night at 8:30pm ET when the action kicks off at Soldier Field. 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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