Tools to the Match

Tools to the Match: How Atlanta United gets a victory at home against D.C. United 


Atlanta United is back at home on Saturday night as the 5-Stripes host D.C. United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The match is the fourth home match in the last five and Atlanta is looking to build some momentum during a busy month of May. With two road matches coming up next week, three points on Saturday would provide a big boost of confidence to the squad. Coming off a 3-0 win in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in midweek, the team will look to click on both ends to earn the three points. D.C. United comes into the match just one spot ahead of Atlanta in the Eastern Conference standings. The team from the nation’s capital is coming off a 2-2 home draw to Philadelphia Union and has yet to win a match on the road this season. Let’s take a look at the Tools to the Match presented by the Home Depot against D.C. United.

Finishing opportunities when they present themselves in front of goal

There is no denying the fact that Atlanta is creating quality scoring opportunities in nearly every match this year. The team ranks fourth in expected goals (xG) with 22.3 coming into this weekend. Over the last four matches, the team’s xG sits at 8.6, which is the second highest in MLS during that time frame. One thing the team needs to continue to work on is finishing those quality scoring opportunities. The 5-Stripes have scored 14 goals, which is still the fifth-most in the Eastern Conference. With Atlanta’s front four getting healthier, the hope is that the goals will start flying in during a busy stretch of May. Atlanta’s record at home when scoring multiple goals continues to be outstanding at 60-1-12 (W-L-T). If Atlanta can finish its chances, especially early in the match, that would be a big step towards securing three points on Saturday.

All eyes turn to Christian Benteke for Atlanta’s defense

D.C. United comes into Saturday with 14 points out of 11 matches so far this season. Following two defeats in early April, the team has rebounded to secure four points from back-to-back home matches. It has yet to win on the road this year but has earned four draws on its travels. Many of those draws have been earned through the attacking prowess of lead striker Christian Benteke. The Belgian international has had an excellent career, playing for a decade in the Premier League with teams like Aston Villa, Liverpool and Crystal Palace. His experience and finishing has been on full display in 2024. After scoring 14 goals in 31 matches last year, the striker has already bagged eight goals in nine matches this season. Atlanta’s backline will have their hands full with one of the league’s most dangerous and in-form strikers on Saturday.

Shutting down Benteke will be one of the big keys defensively. No other D.C. United player has scored more than once this season. If Atlanta’s defense and midfield can contain Benteke and not allow as much service into him from wide areas or midfield, then the 5-Stripes will be in good position to pick up a win.

Overload the flanks and deliver quality crosses into the box

One of the features of Atlanta’s attack this season has been the overloads on the wings. Whether it’s on the right side with Saba Lobjanidze and Brooks Lennon, or on the left through Edwin Mosquera and Caleb Wiley, Atlanta has had success in getting past defenders and delivering crosses into the box. The team ranks first in MLS with 62 successful crosses this season, the next highest team has 48 coming into this weekend. In midweek play, all three of Atlanta’s goals in the Open Cup came from the wide areas. Getting into those primary assist zones (PAZ) has been a focus ever since this coaching staff arrived. Feeding crosses through the air to Giorgos Giakoumakis or looking for the cutback pass to the top of the box for late runners like Thiago Almada or Tristan Muyumba could prove to be the deciding factor on Saturday.

Fans can tune in on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV on Saturday night at 7:30 pm 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 (English) or La Mejor – AM 1600 (Spanish).

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