Atlanta United are back on the road following a three-match homestand as they head out west to take on the LA Galaxy. The 5-Stripes are coming off an intense 1-1 draw to conclude Heineken Rivalry Week against Orlando City SC. The Galaxy lost 2-0 to Colorado last time out. Both teams are in the mix for the playoff spots with Atlanta just three points below the line in the Eastern Conference (with a game in hand), while LA sits in the final playoff spot in the Western Conference currently, tied on points with Portland. Let’s take a look at the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot against LA Galaxy.
Stay solid and compact defensively against LA’s strikers
It’s been back to basics for Atlanta United over the last couple of matches. Head coach Gonzalo Pineda said he wanted to focus on building a solid defensive foundation and get the team to play together on both ends of the pitch. Against Orlando, Atlanta’s defense allowed only 0.24 xG, the lowest by an opponent all season long. That comes on the heels of Real Salt Lake in the match before only registering a 0.78 xG, which is the third-lowest for an ATL UTD opponent this campaign.
That solid defense has been helped by a change in formation and the inclusion of summer signing Juanjo Purata. The strong Mexican defender has made his presence felt on both ends of the pitch, scoring his first MLS goal against Orlando and having eight headed clearances over the past two matches, tied for second-most in MLS during that time frame.
Another solid defensive performance against the LA Galaxy will be the foundation to bringing home three points from California.
Don’t give LA’s Chicharito and Joveljic space around the box
The LA Galaxy feature two of the top strikers in MLS. Dejan Joveljic leads the team with eight goals, while Mexican superstar Chicharito has tallied seven goals. The next highest goal scorer on the team is Rayan Raveloson with three. Joveljic has scored his eight goals on just 12 shots on target, displaying excellent efficiency in his play. Chicharito is your typical “fox in the box” type of player who only needs half a yard of space in and around the goal to make something happen.
Another player that Atlanta will have to keep an eye on is midfielder Efrain Alvarez. The Mexican international leads the Galaxy with 27 key passes on the year. His three assists are tied for second on the team. Atlanta’s backline will have to make sure to stay closely connected to the strikers and not give Alvarez the time and space to find them.
Capitalize on Successful Pressure moments
Atlanta comes into this weekend as one of the best teams in MLS in terms of their successful pressure percentage. This metric by fbref.com is defined as “the percentage of time the squad gained possession within 5 seconds of applying pressure”. ATL UTD comes in fourth in MLS with a 31.1% success ratio. Chicago Fire FC lead the league at 31.6%. That pressure directly resulted in a goal against Real Salt Lake, when Matheus Rossetto intercepted a pass and Ronaldo Cisneros converted the turnover. Atlanta will need to do more of that against a strong attacking side like the LA Galaxy on Sunday to come home with three points.
Fans can tune in to the meeting between Atlanta United and LA Galaxy nationally on FS1 on Sunday at 9:30pm ET. Click here to learn all the ways to watch, listen and live stream Sunday's match.