Tools to the Match

Tools to the Match: How Atlanta United earns three points against Inter Miami CF

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Atlanta United returns to action following the FIFA international break on Saturday as it welcomes Inter Miami CF to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta enters the weekend in sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings with 42 points, four points out from fourth place and home-field advantage in Round 1 of the MLS Cup Playoffs. Miami is unbeaten in its four MLS matches since winning Leagues Cup and sits in 14th place on 28 points as it tries to climb its way into playoff position by Decision Day. Let’s take a closer look at the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot against Inter Miami CF.

Control the tempo and find Thiago Almada

Both Atlanta and Miami prefer to have the ball and be the protagonists in the match, so whichever side is able to take control and dictate the tempo will put the opponent in an uncomfortable position. Atlanta causes problems for opposing teams when Thiago Almada is able to find the ball in dangerous positions in the attacking half and create chances for himself or his teammates. Atlanta’s No. 10 leads MLS in big chances created with 21 and ranks second in chances created with 80. He also leads the league with 14 assists, tied with Miguel Almirón and Julian Gressel for the club single-season record. Controlling possession and limiting Miami’s opportunities in transition will be important for Gonzalo Pineda’s side.

Limit the time and space for Lionel Messi to operate

Since joining MLS in July, Lionel Messi has transformed Miami’s attack. He’s used to being the player that opposing coaches attempt to limit, yet that has proven to be easier said than done. His gravity on the field opens space for teammates and his vision and technical ability help him to break down defenses. Atlanta will need to work as a unit to limit his time and space on the ball and be aware of him at all times. Atlanta’s positioning and active defending will be key to limit opportunities for Miami should it lose possession. Atlanta will need to mark him closely without committing fouls in its defensive third to avoid free kick situations.

Feed off the energy of a full-venue Mercedes-Benz Stadium crowd

Saturday is a full-venue match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Atlanta will look to its supporters to bring the energy as it welcomes a surging Miami side. Atlanta has a strong home record of 8-3-3 this season and will be looking to take nine points from the team’s final three regular season home matches. A loud Mercedes-Benz Stadium atmosphere makes for an intimidating away trip for MLS opponents and could help Atlanta become the first team to defeat Miami since Messi’s debut in Leagues Cup.

Fans can tune in nationally on MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app on Saturday night at 5 p.m. ET when the action kicks off at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. To hear the action on radio, tune into Sports Radio 92.9 The Game, SiriusXM or La Mejor – AM 1600 (Spanish).

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